Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New report connects children's books to the destruction of forests in Indonesia

Forest destruction in Indonesian Borneo.
Photo:David Gilbert/RAN

Rainforest Network Action (RAN) published yesterday a new report with an alarming results. According to their report, significant part of America’s children’s books are contributing to the destruction of endangered rainforests in Indonesia.

The report, entitled
Turning the Page on Rainforest Destruction; Children’s Books and the Future of Indonesia’s Rainforests, found that nine of the top ten U.S. children’s publishers have released at least one children’s book that tested positive for paper fiber linked to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests, including some books that describe the benefits of rainforest conservation.

RAN tested 30 children's books that are published by the top 10 U.S. children's books publishers (3 books of each publisher) for fiber associated with deforestation in Indonesia and found that 18 of the 30 books (60%) contained controversial fiber.

What was common to all of these books that they're all printed in China. RAN explains on their report the connection between printing children's books in China and the destruction of forests in Indonesia:

With the rapid growth of book printing and manufacturing being outsourced to China, the U.S. book industry has become increasingly vulnerable to controversial paper sources entering its supply chain. China is the top importer of Indonesian pulp and paper and much of the Chinese paper industry is linked to or controlled by highly controversial Indonesian pulp and paper suppliers, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), which together account for 80 percent of Indonesia’s production. From 2000-2008, Chinese sales of children’s picture books to the U.S. ballooned by more than 290 percent, averaging an increase of more than 35 percent per year.

The report is making a point that 5 out of the tested publishers have public environmental and paper procurement policies that pledge to reduce the companies’ impact on the climate, protect endangered forests, increase the use of recycled and FSC certified fiber and maximize resource efficiency. However, despite these important policy commitments, wood fiber from Indonesia is ending up in children’s books. Moreover, the report found that publishers with paper policies and climate commitments had a similar percentage of books containing controversial fiber to publishers without policies.

The report checks a small sample, and the majority of children's books might show better results, but with the growing printing in China, these results are definitely alarming and should be a wake-up call for the industry.

So what can be done to stop it? I believe that it is up to the readers and the publishers. If readers (in this case, both parents and kids) will start demanding from publishers to make sure that their books are 100% Indonesian and endangered forest destruction free it will provide publishers with a great incentive to take care of it. The publishers, on their side, should demand from their Chinese printers to stop using paper supplied by companies like Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) to print their books, as long as these companies do not change their current practices.

In the meantime RAN (and so do we) ask you to sign a petition they have on their website (http://ga3.org/campaign/books_and_rainforests) that has a simple yet powerful message: I Love Books and Rainforests. Let's make sure these two won't come one at the expense of the other!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

1 comment:

Tim Magner said...

Thanks for the article Raz.

As a children's book publisher, we paid a little more to print in the USA and to print with soy based ink on recycled paper. While we are far from perfect, I'd be a hypocrite if I externalized costs to maximize profit.

Before buying books: open the front cover and find out where it was printed, what it was printed on and what type of ink it used. At a minimum, choose FSC certified paper on soy based ink.

We need the services of the forests, air, soil and water to survive. Reminders to our connections to nature help us make better buying decisions (or visit the library!). -Tim.

P.S. Should we offer our children's books (about hooking kids on nature) as downloadable apps? send me an email at tim@greensugarpress.com