After reading about sassafras oil last week, I got into a conversation with a friend where she asked me exactly how bad ecstasy production actually was.  We’d previously been discussing Bruce Parry’s video about cocaine production in the Amazon basin  (which I’m planning on posting about soon).  So I did a little more reading.  Because I’m terrible at maths, and because I don’t really know much about conservation and environmental issues, I found it difficult to get a sense of the scale.  But, let me show you my workings:

I mentioned in the previous post that the UN report mentioned the Cambodian government seizing just over 20mt in 2009.  I’m going to work on the assumption that a drum is the same as a barrel.  There are about 7 barrels in 1 metric tonne.   It takes about 4 trees to make 1 drum of oil, which including the 10 trees that are needed to make the fuel, equals 44 trees per drum. So by my estimation, the UN seizures of 2009 represented the destruction of approximately 6,160 trees.  Given that’s just what was seized, you’d have to assume that more than that was actually produced and exported, and therefore more than 6,000 trees were destroyed with the aim of manufacturing MDMA.  That seems like quite a few trees to me. There were some other figures in the story, equating a previous seizure of 1,278 drums of oil to 245 million ecstasy tablets, so a little forest goes a long way (1 tree produces 200 pills) but still…

To make matters worse, my friend’s question led me to read about quite how important those particular trees are.  The western Cardamoms, where the sassafras oil is being harvested, are part of southeast Asia’s largest mainland rainforest.  The forests serve as the last refuge for more than 80 of the world’s most threatened species, including the Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger and Siamese crocodile.

Baby tigers!  Endangered by south London clubbers! Eeek.