We are going on the basis that mostly everyone reading this blog is a musician or guitar builder of some ability, whether pro or just a beginner. We are also going to assume that some if not all of you have an environmental bone hidden in your body somewhere, or infact you may be a complete environmentalist. In any event, I would bet that 100% of you listen watch or read the news, and have for a while. So the fact that many animal and plant species on this planet are in danger of being over-harvested and face possible if not imminent extinction. CITES therefore, or at least the concept is not going to be a surprise for you. Whether you play a guitar, bass, violin or any other stringed instrument, bagpipes, clarinet, xylophone or piano, there is a component of your instrument that does or could fall under the CITES rules. The aim of this 2 part blog is to look at what CITES is and how it affects us now and how it could in the future.
Every farmer knows that if you take too much away from Mother Earth, she will stop giving back. We have known this since the beginning of everything harvested. Like most things we get our fingers into however, we place a value on certain species and as they become more rare, they become more valuable…which is the primary reason we have over-harvested….well….everything. Laws governing how much we can take from the earth and what we can do with it go way back in history but in contemporary history, we can look at the US which passed the Lacey Act in 1900. The Lacey Act (flawed or not) regulated the harvesting of everything from fish to plants and allowed for the criminal prosecution of transgressors. Jump ahead to 1948 and the founding of the ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) which defined the risk of certain species into 3 basic categories, Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered. We all remember learning about endangered species at school, whether we took it seriously or not. Then in the 60’s the idea was formed for CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and was put into place in 1975. Cites is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
When we look backwards, it seems pretty obvious why we need a program like CITES….we all know about dwindling whale population, tigers, elephants etc. But what we don’t initially realize is that many plant species have been taken for granted as well. For example, trees that take literally hundreds of years to grow have been harvested to the point of extinction, or in some cases just burned to the ground to make room for housing, industry and farming. Many of the exotic woods we have come to love in instrument building have been a major source of income for some third world countries who may or may not have the education to realize that what they were doing would compromise a species. For us in the guitar world, the woods that come to mind are obviously rosewoods, ebony’s and mahogany’s. We have all heard of the Smart Wood program at Gibson and also their subsequent prosecution for importing, storing and using CITES protected species. Virtually every major guitar/bass company now has some information on their websites about what they are doing in terms of CITES.
Here at Solo Guitars, we are working hard to make sure we are accredited as importers and manufacturers, and to also make sure the woods we import are brought in legally, and within the moral bounds of not hurting the environment or any particular species. Not only is this our responsibility, but we feel that it is everyone’s responsibility. In part 2 of this CITES blog, we will look at how this agreement affects us as manufacturers, builders and individuals.