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The Amazon breathes carbon in, and breathes oxygen out. Climate change is slowed by the world’s forests, and hastened by their destruction.

By 2050 thousands of tree species will disappear. Some will be logged or cleared into extinction; others won’t be able to move to new habitats fast enough to survive. Tropical forests with their narrow thermal tolerances will be particularly vulnerable.

Trees are just not valuable enough. An illegal logger cuts down one tree to feed his family for a week, then goes back for more. Ecuador and the UN tried to raise money to prevent the clearing of 10,000 square kilometres of Amazon jungle for oil, and the world refused to donate.

But we’re naturally drawn to burning wood. For at least 400,000 years humans have used fire to control our environment, to deter predators, to make tools and to cook our food. Our large brains, fed by complex cooked calories not available to other animals, have developed advanced cognitive abilities. Many religions feature burning rituals in their sacred practices, and human cremation can represent purification or punishment, depending on your beliefs.

The last survivor of any species is inherently priceless. But what if we did place a price on it? A price that would allow for the conservation of, say, 10 other species? What if we viewed impending extinction as a unique opportunity, instead of as a threat? What if we sold the right to chop that last trunk down? Had the timber shaped into boxes of beautiful wooden cigars? Designed a firepit that allowed each cigar to burn upright, independent and alone; the ultimate luxury campfire experience for the 1%?

Could we live with that?

A design response to the Bye Bye Homosapiens brief March – June 2014

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