Utne Blogs > Environment

Welcome to the Jungle

by Will Wlizlo

Tags: Gibson Guitars, illegal logging, Madagascar, environment, Sierra, Tennessean, Will Wlizlo,


Rock ‘n’ roll is the music of vicarious consumption. Although it sounds clichéd, from the earliest blues licks to the blast beats of Scandinavian black metal, rock has sold a lifestyle intent on heedless use of booze, drugs, sexual partners, violence—burning bridges and not feeling too guilty as you drunkenly stumble over and urinate on the ashes. It’s a fantasy that doesn’t seem as romantic when you get back home from the club with an epic hangover. After fifty years of supporting rock stars, guitar manufacturers are taking a cue from such musicians with dangerous abandon.

According to Sierra, Gibson Guitar Corporation and other manufacturers are knocking down protected trees like they’re shot glasses full of Jägermeister:

Gibson became the unexpected American face of illegal logging after federal agents seized imported wood from its manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. The Justice Department suspected that Gibson had smuggled rare rosewood and ebony from Madagascar and India into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import of illegally logged wood and paper.

Madagascar, an island country off the east coast of Africa, is known for its rich biodiversity and relative resistance to commercial exploitation. Thus, Madagascar serves as something akin to Eden for environmentalists: at once isolated in a state of natural grace and teetering above the morass of human defilement. Why an otherwise controversy-free industry thought it could tromp around in paradise and get away with it is a little beguiling.

As always, the offending corporations are waging a PR offensive. As Sierra reports, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz “hit the conservative broadcast circuit, appearing with right-wing pundits Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Sean Hannity to complain about ‘government overreach.’” What’s more, according to the Tennessean (via Rainforest Portal), Gibson is a prominent charitable donor to the Rainforest Alliance, a weak consumer-standards regulatory organization that “has consistently given Gibson high marks for environmental practices.”

In light of Gibson’s greenwashing, will concertgoers start demanding their rock bands to be certified for forest management standards?

Sources: Sierra, Tennessean 

Image by berr.e, licensed under Creative Commons.