Starting a new industry in a remote rural region is a daunting task. Selling the virtues of a tree so invasive that the state developed a strategic plan just to control this menace and a citizens group boasted of killing 12,000 of these trees in just one year, is also daunting. And promoting the use of the wood, commonly thought of as flimsy (like cheap wooden chopsticks) and difficult to mill, to build affordable housing sounds dubious at best. But this is the kind of out-of-the-box, risky, big-picture thinking and doing that we should celebrate and support.
The story begins in 1917, when a botanist brought the Albizia seedling from Indonesia to Hawaii to combat deforestation. Now, click forward a little more than 100 years, and you can read a report from the state that begins, “Albizia infests large swaths of our islands. Its rapid growth crowds out native species, its nitrogen fixing abilities change natural ecosystems, and its brittle wood breaks easily, smashing property and destroying lives.”
Indeed, most of the $325 million in damages caused by Hurricane Iselle in 2014 has been blamed on Albizia. Clearly, bringing Albizia to Hawaii was a grave mistake a century ago. Can anything be done beyond massive cutting and leaving the fallen trees to rot?Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly