27 September 2022

It’s a Kafkaesque world. Here is the environmental vandal President Bolsonaro planting a Brazilwood tree (aka Paubrasilia echinata) “to symbolise the unequivocal symbiosis between nature and nuclear energy”. Meanwhile I (a lifetime environmentalist and veteran of Edinburgh Rainforest Action Group in the 1980s) am campaigning against his proposal to put the tree on CITES Appendix I…

Bolsonaro planting a pau-brasil pernambuco tree

For the benefit of friends who may feel I’ve lost my mind, Bolsonaro is trying to hijack CITES to further his populist agenda. It is Brazil’s national tree so ‘saving’ it plays well domestically. But the tree is also the ‘music tree’ from which all the best violin bows in the world are made – the wood is called pernambuco. The 200 or so artisan luthiers who make pernambuco bows only need about one medium size tree each for a lifetime of making, and they have been planting and managing the trees in Brazil for 25-30 years now in order to ensure a sustainable supply. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has allowed uncontrolled development to devastate the coastal natural habitat of the tree. But Brazil refuses to participate in international certification schemes for the tree, so the managed timber can’t be used. Now Brazil is trying to get CITES to pass rules which would prevent international musicians from travelling with pernambuco bows even if they were made hundreds of years ago.
Anna Ashmole (Martin Swan Violins)

Take Action!

The decision will be taken by the parties to CITES. Please lobby the CITES representative in your country – the full list of parties to CITES is here. Click your country name to get contact details, and look for the contacts for the management and scientific authorities rather than enforcement. You can write a letter or email them – it doesn’t have to be long or detailed, just let them know of your concern and what impact the proposed changes could have for you.

In the UK, contact Kristopher Blake, UK CITES Management Authority, cites.ukma@defra.gov.uk

Look at our briefing notes and resources here.