African Blackwood Conservation Project

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Why Should I Care?

"If full grown trees are being cut for timber,
and the young ones are killed by fire,
it won't be long before there aren't any mpingos left!"
Sebastian M. Chuwa, "The Tree of Music", 1992

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature/World Conservation Monitoring Centre in their 1998 IUCN/WCMC World List of Threatened Trees mention the status of mpingo as follows, "This species occurs in a range of woodland habitats in at least 26 sub-Saharan countries. Its timber, mpingo, is widely used in the wood carving industry and in musical instrument manufacture. Levels of exploitation are very high and larger or suitably exploitable individuals are becoming scarce. There is cause for concern over genetic erosion in many populations. However, as a species there is no imminent threat of extinction." Sebastian Chuwa, as evidenced in the quote above, believes that we should act now on behalf of mpingo before one day we wake up to find it is no longer merely threatened but has become an endangered species because as the levels of exploitation of the tree continued over the years unabated, the world did nothing.

But why should I care? A question worth answering. Today's world creates many demands upon our time and energies, and there are many worthy causes deserving support. Why support ABCP and what does the mpingo matter in the bigger scheme of things? We shall attempt to provide some reasonable answers from our perspective.

With the world's environment under assault from every seeming direction, it sometimes seems impossible to know how to respond. The project proposed in this instance is a direct response to that feeling of helplessness. It is a small step towards solutions of monumental problems, but the longest journey begins with just such a small step. By supporting such direct action, grass-roots efforts as we propose here, we can in some small, local area of the world begin to reverse the trend of environmental degradation and loss of species and habitat that has been the cost of the technological progress of the last century.

The African Blackwood Conservation Project as described in other sections of this site seeks to restore a vital element of the natural world to a healthy state of balance between conservation and use. The mpingo tree has given humanity a great deal of beauty and respite from the daily pressures of life through the music it produces through the form of woodwind instruments. Its resistance to moisture, its machinability, durability, stability and beauty have made it irreplaceable for this purpose. Just to perpetuate its existence for that purpose is reason enough to care about its future.

Additionally, its role as a soil stabilizer/enhancer and food source for wildlife such an elephants, giraffes, and wildebeests makes it essential in the savannah ecosystems of eastern Africa. With human economic/commercial growth subsuming increasing amounts of the planet's surface, it behooves us all to maintain some places on the planet that are wild, where natural flora and fauna are allowed to live in balance without our impact creating imbalances. Mpingo plays a vital part in such a wild place, and with sustainable harvesting and replanting through a project such as ABCP, we can have it both ways. Wilderness is maintained and a valuable natural resource is available for human use also.

So sometimes a natural resource serves as a portent of the health of our human society, like a canary in a coal mine. If we continue to use resources with no thought of the future consequences of such use we will see increasingly threatened and endangered species on the planet, and we shall all be diminished for their passing. If we make efforts to strike a balance between our use and the preservation of natural resources, we will leave a world to future generations which offers them the same richness of experience and opportunity which we have inherited. How can we, in good conscience, do any less than to care about a tree such as mpingo? And if we translate that care into support then we may leave the world a better place for our having passed through it.



ABCP Website maintained by James E. Harris, 2000.
Last revised 21 Apr 2008.