Are Guitars Today”s Blood Diamonds?

Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park, Sara Bareilles, Michael Franti, Jack Johnson, KT Tunstall, Jason Mraz, Guster, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Weir are among many performers using their voices and influence to encourage fans, legislators and instrument-makers to support the U.S. Lacey Act, which prohibits the import of and trade in illegally sourced timber and wood products. They’ve also pledged to verify wood sources before purchasing new instruments. Artists from Mick Jagger, Willie Nelson, Sting and Lenny Kravitz to Lana Del Rey, Lilly Allen and Brandi Carlile have also signed the pledge.

REVERB began educating concertgoers about the issue with 2013’s Last Summer on Earth tour; since then, millions of fanshave been invited to sign postcards asking their Congressional representatives to support continued enforcement against the illegal timber and wood products trade.

In late 2015, Gardner and Sullivan traveled with Maroon 5’s James Valentine and Jesse Carmichael and members of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit advocacy group, to the Guatemalan rainforest to document the effects of illegal logging and success of sustainable alternatives.

The message needs to reach even more ears in order to halt the devastating effects of illegal logging on delicate ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity, as well as local populations who depend on forest resources. Irreversible species loss and human lives sacrificed to corrupt and unethical business practices are just some of the consequences of illegal timber harvests.

According to climate scientists, deforestation and illegal logging result in more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s air, road, rail and shipping traffic combined.

“This issue is very similar to blood diamonds,” says Gardner. “It’s about knowing that what you buy has deep impacts far afield from the store you bought it from.”

“It’s the demand for these woods that drives this whole industry,” says Valentine. “I don’t think consumers are aware of the problem, and change could happen if consumers start to ask where their wood is coming from for any wood product, not just instruments.”

REVERB and EIA have worked together since 2012 to encourage musicians, fans, instrument manufacturers and lawmakers to support legal and sustainably sourced timber and call for action against those who trade in stolen timber.

During that post-screening Q&A at the Grammy Museum, Gardner was asked why the group felt the need to trek into the heart of the Central American rainforest.

“We thought, ‘How do we more deeply engage artists and the public in this?'” he explained. “‘Well, let’s have fans see and learn along with these high profile artists’ eyes.'”