…but any time I read about the seizure of illegally felled timber in Southeast Asia, I sit back and sigh. Anybody who has worked or travelled much in the region will have seen timber – of small and large quantities – that is not exactly procured according to the letter of the law. It is no secret that “illegal” logging occurs extensively.

The trucks, storage space and machinery required for the operation in question – not to mention the noise, traffic and inconvenience caused by such a large movement of timber – means that somebody, somewhere, is just not happy with the deal. That a deal has gone bad seems likely from the information presented. One could conclude that seizures like this are miniscule “victories” in a futile effort to criminalise what should – in many, but not all, areas of Southeast Asia – be a viable, well-regulated, broad-based economic activity.

Of course, some logging practices may not, by some measures, be sustainable. But, and here’s the rub…what is “sustainable” about the hundreds of other industries that are legally allowed to flourish? Examples are legion – I’m sure you can think of a few.

Totemic calls to prosecute “forest destroyers” are merely a socially acceptable way to restrict poor people from engaging in potentially legal, local, lucrative and, when managed properly, environmentally benign economic activities.

What, I ask, is sustainable about that?