Mortimer McPherson, GUEST COLUMNIST
As the president of the Jamaica Wood Products and Furniture Association, and as a member of the BIMAC Committee at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), I would like to engage the Jamaican community in a conversation on sustainable economic development through the creative use of bamboo.
This grass, which we cut down at will and burn without discretion, and is probably the single most versatile natural resource to be found in Jamaica at this time. Not only is bamboo to be found here but can be grown anywhere, making it a crop for every single Jamaican with a parcel of land. It must be here noted that bamboo has become the study of every nation and has become the focus of both intensive and extensive study in Jamaica. I am very honoured to be a part of the bamboo committee at the BSJ.
This high level of interest has led to a great variety of research for many different applications - not only architectural but industrial, artisanal, and culinary as well. Every area of our lives can be touched by this seemingly useless and somewhat invasive grass.
The use of bamboo charcoal for cooking has increased exponentially. Then there is bamboo charcoal for the health conscious - this is used for the absorption and filtering of toxins in the body. There is also edible bamboo shoots, which are canned and shipped to several countries. There's also bamboo vinegar, bamboo flooring, bamboo vessels and much more.
We are not alone on this journey. With us, there are millions of people concerned with bamboo. From the field and the forest to the factory and the merchant, from the design studio to the laboratory, from the universities to the political power, people are more and more aware of this potentially renewable resource. In the last decade, bamboo has become a major economic crop.
In 2010, the world bamboo market was about US$7 billion. By 2017, it is expected to reach US$15 billion to US$20 billion.
But more than this economic aspect, bamboo is also truly an environmental plant.
According to Dr Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general, during the Bangkok 2009 WBC: "The potential advantages of bamboo for the environment and economic development cannot be understated ... . Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs too.
"So let us look at bamboo in terms of sustainable development and the environment ... . From a social perspective, bamboo is also important because it has a great potential as a source of productive employment ... . However, to realise the potential of bamboo, interventions are needed, particularly in the fields of forestry and land use, industry, technology, and finance."
And according to Shri M. Hamid Ansari, vice-president of India at the World Bamboo Day in Kohima (Nagaland) 2010: "The importance of bamboo is enhanced in the backdrop of global concerns of ecology and environment and the looming threat of global warming and climate change. Bamboo is emerging as the most viable wood substitute.
"Unlike steel and plastic, it is eco-friendly, being not only biodegradable but also having enormous capacity to sequester carbon. Furthermore, as the fastest-growing plant on earth, it is a renewable resource with short gestation."
It is because we are all involved in that changing world that we have a challenge to solve. We all have the responsibility to promote bamboo. Not only should we talk about it, or research its potential, we must do something about it. We must use the findings of others and our own findings and create products, find markets, train our people, and invest in factories manufacturing bamboo products.
I challenge Jamaica, I challenge the powers that be, I challenge the policymakers, I challenge the private sector, and I challenge the economic solution brokers and analysts - promote bamboo as a material for the future. And the future is now!
Mortimer McPherson is president of the Jamaica Wood Products and Furniture Association. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.