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September 23, 2009

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Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia – Illegal logging and poor forest practices are two separate things” and “if there is one thing I hope could be improved over time it would be the quality of data that everyone could share” are the words of wisdom spouted by one Alberto Goetzl. Mr. Goetzl, a policy bureaucrat wonk from Poolesville, Maryland has been sharing these brilliant insights to the people of Malaysia through a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.


Continuing his bone dry talk, that if recorded would send the most chronic insomniac into dreamland after a few seconds, he made the startling revelation that there needed to be a world forestry observatory established. I guess he has never heard of satellites which monitor every tree being cut down and whose data is available to anyone who has a computer.


Admitting he doesn’t have a clue about Malaysia or its forestry policies, he promptly did the American thing and told his audience what needs to be done.


“I think there’s a realization of the situation and they (Conference of Parties under United Nations framework for climate change, whoever they are) will be talking about mechanisms for countries that are in that process,” he informed an audience who’s English is a second language. And this American also had a hard time following his convoluted speech which wrapped around a tree I think he was trying to protect.


But, to his credit, he said he wasn’t here to talk about Malaysian forestry even though he told reporters what should be done about slash and burn practices. Rather, he got on his high horse, waved the U.S. flag and pointedly told the audience that American laws would affect people around the world. Little does he know, most U.S. laws are ignored world wide and this threat that if you “don’t listen to America then America will do bad things to you” smacks of colonialism.


I particularly loved the statement about how he wants to focus more on poor forest practices than on illegal logging. I can hear the chainsaws revving up now. Hip, hip hooray! They are finally going to leave us alone. I can hear the illegals sighing with relief. Expect a major destruction of habitat if his plan succeeds.


“Who is this guy,” I questioned as I googled his name. Alberto Goetzl? His main claim to fame seems to be he has 30 years of being a bureaucrat. He is especially knowledgeable in the field of “natural resources and environment policy,” which means he writes those incomprehensible government tomes understood by maybe two people.


His company also published a paper that attempted to quantify the amount of global illegal logging. I stopped counting at 25 Internet pages where it was cited. But, I have a problem when anyone submits a work for the timber industry and also admits he knows nothing about Malaysian logging or forestry practices. I also have a concern when I do not spot any criticisms of his paper as if it was handed down from the heavens. Mr. Goetzl, consider this one of your first criticisms.


Mr. Goetzl is also president and founder of Seneca Creek Associates, a consulting firm. In America, whenever somebody wants to do something that involves getting money from the government or changing policy, they hire a consulting firm. This firm then writes a report, usually in a bureaucratic format, that supports whatever the person wants to do. The owner gets a whole lot of money – read Mr. Goetzl – for writing the report.


Mr. Goetzl’s clients have included the American Hardwood Export Council, Wood Resources International and other companies near and dear to the timber industry.


Mr. Goetzel’s reports mainly relate how illegal logging affects the American timber industry and, if we stop illegal logging, then the price of American timber will increase. No tree hugger he.


Sending somebody like Mr. Goetzl around Malaysia as a spokesperson for the American government and the timber industry is an insult to the American people. First, he is incomprehensible as a speaker. Second, he wants to refocus attention on poor forest practices at the expense of illegal logging when both deserve equal worldwide attention.


The American government should send people here who are willing to work with the people of Malaysia and not speak from a colonial position. They must be willing to work in the field, side by side with the understanding that Malaysians have as much to offer, probably more, in the field of tropical biology than we them. This sharing of information through mutual respect and exchange is the only way the rain forests will be saved.


The culture of the people of Malaysia welcomes people who visit their country as if they are guests in their own homes. They would consider it very impolite and down right rude to criticize a guest who wants to speak on any topic. Their wonderful perceptions of life are one of the major reasons I visit here.


However, I am not afraid to tell the U.S. government what I think and I will continue to do so. That blue passport gives me that right.


…life is good – despite…


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