Guatemalan communities engaged in sustainable forestry have rallied some high-profile supporters. Musicians from multiple Grammy Award winning pop group Maroon 5 have spoken out for the renewal of community forest concession contracts in the wake of their visit to the area late last year.
Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine, the group’s pianist and guitarist Jesse Carmichael, and alt-rock band Guster guitarist and singer Adam Gardner visited Guatemala last December where they visited communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
The musicians joined the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an NGO with offices in Washington, D.C. and London, in travelling to Guatemala to learn firsthand about sustainable community forest management, and how it can help prevent illegal logging and forest destruction.
Whilst in Guatemala the musicians met with several governmental officials, the Association of Forest Communities of Peten (ACOFOP), and locals involved in the harvest, processing, and export of certified wood from community forest concessions.
Illegal logging threatens communities by destroying the forests on which they depend, depriving local governments of tax revenue and funding organized crime. In many cases, illegal logging operations encroach on communities, using threats of violence, with workers facing dangerous working conditions and human rights abuses.
Alongside the EIA, the Maroon 5 and Guster musicians coordinated their trip with Reverb, a Maine-based non-profit organization co-founded by Gardner. Reverb works with musicians and others in the music industry to reduce the environmental impact of tours.
Concerned that wood used in guitars and other instruments be sustainably sourced, members of the American bands Maroon 5 and Guster visited Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in December.
Citing reduced deforestation and benefits to communities in the concessions, the musicans urged Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales to extend the concessions’ contracts, several of which are set to expire within the next decade.
In a letter to Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales, the musicians wrote:
“The trip was unforgettable and confirmed what data has demonstrated; community concessions in Guatemala have maintained forest cover, deterred deforestation, and minimized forest fires, all while maintaining the health and biodiversity of ecosystems.
We saw firsthand that the benefits of community forest management extend not only to the forests, but also to Guatemalan communities.”
Musicians have a direct connection to the issue of logging due to the tonewoods used in guitars and other instruments.
Maroon 5 has joined Mick Jagger, Sting, and dozens of other artists and bands who have signed Reverb’s musician’s pledge, calling on everyone involved in the sourcing, crafting, and production of musical instruments to join them in committing to eliminate trade in illegally logged timber.
Back in 2015, Mickey Madden from Maroon 5 likened illegal logging to the diamond trade, noting illegally sourced wood can be considered “blood wood.”
In the video, Madden states, “it is the same kind of exploitation, the same kind of rapaciousness, the same damage to local communities and local economies that we are seeing here with illegal logging.”
Members of the EIA and Reverb delegation will return to Guatemala in May to launch a video documenting the Maroon 5 and Guster musicians’ visit to the community forest concessions.
Speaking to Mongbay, EIA senior policy advisor Lisa Handy said that “The musicians’ involvement also has the potential to spark a broader conversation and impact.”
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Photo credit: Environmental Investigation Agency
Video Credit: EIAEnvironment from Youtube.