All species are to some extent dependent on one another. Nowhere is this interdependence more pronounced than in the world’s rainforest ecosystems. These relationships take many forms in the forest.
http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0202.htm Examples both simple and direct are the birds and the bees. Birds scatter seeds over hundreds, even thousands of miles. Bees pollinate the fruit orchards and strawberry fields. And without squirrels to scatter acorns across the forest floor, oak trees would grow only where the acorns drop.
Now in the case of the Brazil nut tree reproduction is fascinating and a lot more complicated than the above examples. The relationship between Brazil nuts and guitar construction will be addressed shortly. (*Brazil nut trees are identified as “Brazil nuts” by the locals). That is, they leave off “trees” when speaking of them. They are considered to be the most important trees in the rainforest economy. These trees provide nuts and latex, both important harvests for families who live and work in the Amazon. Brazil nuts grow from between 100 and 150 feet tall and bear fruits that are dropped during the rainy season. Each fruit bears 10 to 20 seeds, which must be taken from the coconut-like fruits and carried to a drying kiln. The Amazon Conservation Association is working to help sustain the Brazil nut industry because it is important to the people and biodiversity of the rainforest”. http://www.ehow.com/list_7607207_tall-trees-rainforest.html In addition, the canopied forest environment is absolutely necessary to the lives and life cycles of numerous plant and animal species. In short, when you remove this umbrella, every living thing that previously lived under it is jeopardized.
The Brazil nut is dependent on several animal species for their survival. These large canopied trees found in the Amazon rainforest, Peru, and Brazil, require the assistance of the agouti, a ground-dwelling rodent, for an important part of their life cycle. They look friendly enough, but I wouldn’t mess with this one. http://plantecology.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/agouti.jpg
The agouti is the only animal with teeth strong enough to open the Brazil nut’s baseball-sized seedpods. Here’s a typical sample image of that seedpod. http://www.asknature.org/strategy/c782403fa23f441b38322215b36df640
Here is an image of a freshly cut seedpod. You can see the individual recognizable nuts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brazil_nut_DSC05477.JPG
And here you can see the individual nuts that you’re probably more familiar with. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BrazilNut1.JPG
The agouti only eats some of the Brazil nut’s seeds. Then it scatters the seeds across the forest by burying them far away from the parent tree, no doubt for future snacks. These seeds then germinate and form the next generation of trees.
For pollination, Brazil nuts are dependent on Euglossine orchid bees. Without these large-bodied bees, Brazil nut reproduction is not possible. For this reason, there has been little success growing Brazil nuts in plantations. They only appear to grow under natural rainforest conditions.
Here’s a little known fact about the Brazil nut that I learned as an 11 year old boy scout Strike a match and put it to the nut (shelled). It will burn for up to 2 hours. OK. All together now: “So the h_ll what?” What an attitude! Here I’m giving you a useless fact, free of charge. And that’s all you can say? Let’s say that you’re on a camping trip or there’s a monster blizzard (like last night up and down the eastern seaboard of the USA) and you lose power. What to do? You pull a Brazil nut or 2 or 10 out of your backpack or pantry. Put them on a little dish and light them. Aside from light, they can provide enough heat to cook on or to keep your hands or toes warm. Personally, I don’t think the Brazil nut tastes like anything. If someone asked me to describe the flavor of a Brazil nut, I’d have to say that they don’t taste like anything. Now, I’m sure that lots of you don’t agree with me, but I don’t care.
The bottom line is that you should leave these wonders of nature alone. Collect the nuts and go home. If you wish to buy or make a guitar or bass or any other wooden musical instrument with the wood of the Brazil nut, forget it. It’s illegal. This site shows an image of a sample board plus every characteristic of the wood that you could possibly imagine. http://www.thewoodexplorer.com/maindata/we161.html
The good news is that there are lots of other wood species available to make musical instruments that are not endangered, and are in fact, plentiful. Besides, the wood isn’t particularly unique or exciting.
Brazil nuts take a long time to mature for optimum nut production. A 200 year old tree is considered young. At 800 these trees are thought to be mature. They can live to 1000 years of age if left alone. That’s the key. Like so many tree species, they are cut down before their time. The wood isn’t particularly distinctive. It’s brown and lacks a unique grain. On the hardness scale, it is very close to rock maple. . It’s easy to work, good for making fine furniture, canoes, flooring, plywood, and numerous other domestic and industrial purposes. In addition the wood takes on a beautiful high polish. You could probably even make a pretty nice guitar, acoustic or electric; Or maybe a mandolin, violin, cello, or harp. Except that, again, it’s against the law to harvest these trees. However, if there’s a choice between felling and burning these giants of the Amazon to clear the land for raising crops (bad idea) or to raise cattle (worse), or to build WalMarts (I’m not joking), or to build super highways (already in the works) and stealing them outright to produce useful items for domestic or export commerce, the answer is clear.
A large percentage of families in Peru and Brazil have been making a good living collecting, drying, and selling Brazil nuts for over a century. The nuts fall and “pod” in the month of November each year and are collected by hand. They’re then dried and sold. Tons are exported yearly. It’s a sustainable industry. It doesn’t harm the forest. It is illegal logging that is threatening the Brazil nut habitat. Subsistence farmers (i.e., those individual farmers working only to support their families) who have been moving into the area, clear their acreage, including the Brazil nut. This is where the expression “slash and burn” originates. This insidious practice works like this: someone builds on a piece of forestland. He then calls it his own. Then he moves farther in to stake a claim to that piece of land. Then he starts selling cleared land to other people. This is how the land is, in essence, stolen. Everyone has a right to make a living. No one has a right to destroy the Amazon rainforest, a precious and irreplaceable jewel of our earth.
As I said (in so many words) in an earlier piece: In this very short period that we inhabit the earth, we can give or we can take. We can create or we can destroy. In the end it’s really an individual’s choice as to whether he or she contributes for all to benefit.
You owe it to yourself, if for no other reason than curiosity, to read the following page on the disappearing rainforests. Fascinating and alarming.
Here is a fine recording reflective of the rainforest calamity afflicting the earth: Stephen Stills, “Amazonia”, 1991. Widely known for his bright, crisp, biting solo work using his Martin D-45, Mr. Stills plays a mean Spanish guitar on this poignant composition that speaks to the threats facing the northern South American Amazonian region. It is ironic that amidst such natural beauty not found anywhere else, that there are those individuals and huge conglomerates so willing to destroy for totally selfish purposes. And yet it is shrinking dramatically every minute of the day, every day of the year; threatened from within and from the outside world (us). Have conditions improved since 1991? Yes! Have we solved the problem? No. Is there hope? Maybe. People and governments are beginning to finally see what subtraction really looks like. How much? 150 acres every minute of every day! This is animal and plant life that will never, ever return. What’s at stake? Oxygen, for one. Trees produce it. And carbon dioxide. Trees store it.
What happens when you cut down too many big trees? Aberrant and dramatic fluctuations in earth’s temperatures result. Weird and sometimes deadly weather events occur. Massive forest kills happen due to temperature and chemical imbalances. What else is lost? Maybe cures for our worst diseases. Maybe lifesaving pharmaceuticals and compounds synthesized from rare plants, roots, leaves and bark. What else is at stake? Maybe us.
The old saying “Look before you leap” is one to take to heart. Maybe it’s the time of year. It may even be a sign of personal growth or maturity Many of us tend to reflect on the state of the earth and not merely about our own self-serving needs and desires. We can inquire about the origins of the products that we are considering for purchase and the foods we may or may not consume.
If by chance you are considering the purchase of a guitar in the coming new year, it takes just a little bit of extra effort to discover the origin of the raw materials going into the creation of that guitar. It takes just a little bit of extra research to discover whether the craftsmen and craftswomen who built that instrument were working under reasonable conditions and at a fair pay scale. When acoustic and electric guitars started showing up online around Christmas selling for under $200.00, it’s natural to be suspicious. It’s highly unlikely that an American luthier could even purchase the materials locally to construct a quality electric guitar for $200.00. Even if one could do such a thing, all other business costs would have to be absorbed by the builder. So life is unfair. What else is new?
Being that we are very near to the end of 2010, I want to take a moment to wish my readers and supporters a happy and productive new year…but nobody else! Just you. Normally, I don’t make a new year’s resolution. This year I really have to because there is a rather large portion of the population (I think) that I’ve been particularly hard on (not that hard on), but silently. And they are the individuals, who through no fault of their own (I hope), use the following words and phrases either inappropriately, or way too often: transparency, sustainable, whatever, like, you know, at the end of the day, surge, terrorist, thinking outside the box, and of course, everybody’s favorite, unintended consequences. Please, please come up with some new words to copy from one another if for no other reason than to keep things interesting. You know what I’m saying.
If I can be serious and off topic for a moment:
Many millions of us are out of work. Of the 78,000,000 or so “baby-boomers” out there, millions have lost their livelihoods, maybe forever. And the millions of young people all over the world who are trying to get their first break in the world of work, are discovering sadly that they don’t seem to matter. And guitars and rainforests are not exactly your main concern today. How many times have you heard or read that you will have to “reinvent” yourself numerous times throughout your work-life? So what’s that supposed to mean? There’s no guidance from anyone that I know of about how to go about reinventing yourself. A piece of advice that I’ve offered to my children at times and that I have to remind myself of way too often nowadays, is this: Recall your own unique talents and/or abilities. Write them down if it will help. I’m not talking Mr. Rogers “you are very special’, or some crap from your teachers about how “you can be anything that you want to be.” You aren’t so special. Your last boss let you know that (in so many words). The rejections that many of us have received from former employers or prospective employers only reinforce.this notion that you aren’t unique.
Recognize what you are capable of. Recall aspects of your life in or out of school where you received some sort of recognition. Even if it was something that you did in the 3rd grade where you seemed to stand out. A spelling bee or a particular area where you excelled earlier in your life are examples. The point is that there is much that each of us can draw on. We can’t completely reinvent ourselves, but we can recognize positive things about ourselves that maybe went unnoticed or else was just forgotten. Build on the positive things about yourself. Build on your past. It’s all you’ve got. Rejecting your past accomplishments and demonstrated abilities is ultimately self-defeating. In the end, your unique set of talents, abilities, and accomplishments may set you up for work with someone else, or for some organization. You could simply be one of those people who can’t or won’t fit into an organizational setting. That’s why so many people attempt to start their own businesses. Working for yourself requires discipline, long hours, a really good idea, a solid business model, startup cash, patience, and luck.
And maybe it doesn’t work out the first time. But if you believe in yourself and you don’t give-in to discouragement for too long, you can bounce back to give it another go. Sure beats doing nothing.
OK, enough! A new year will begin in a couple of days. I’m looking to try out some new things and maybe come up with a couple of new guitar designs in 2011. What about you?