Purchasing a children’s book may be directly causing deforestation of biodiverse and carbon-heavy rainforests, according to a new report by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). In a discovery that highlights the irony of the issue, RAN even found children’s books about protecting rainforests contained fiber from Indonesian forests.
Testing paper fiber from 30 children’s books, RAN found that overall 18 books were directly linked to paper products from Indonesia, and four of these had paper from natural hardwood trees in the island nation. Rainforest in Indonesia are being felled at rates only second to those in Brazil to make room for vast palm oil plantations and acacia (i.e. pulp and paper) plantations. In 15 years time (between 1990 and 2005) Indonesia has lost over 28 million hectares of forest (an area larger than New Zeland), including 21.7 hectares of old-growth forest.
“Considering that many publishers have already made public commitments to reduce their environmental footprint, we were surprised by the industry-wide scope of the problem,” said Lafcadio Cortesi of RAN. “We don’t think that kids and their parents want to choose between loving books and protecting the rainforest.”
The report also found that 9 out of 10 of the US’s biggest children’s books publishers are printing books on paper sourced from Indonesia. One of the largest reasons behind this is a trend for US publishers to have books printed in China to reduce expenses. In fact 50 percent of children’s books printed on coated paper come from China. However China is a major importer of Indonesian paper products, including sourcing from two of the country’s most controversial companies, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resource International (APRIL).
“Although our sample was relatively small and selected at random, it is notable that more than half of the books and nine of 10 book publishers had fiber linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction in their books,” the report reads. RAN recommends that children’s books publishers first eradicate all links in their sourcing chain to APP and APRIL.
Eighty percent of Indonesia’s 2.3 billion tons of CO2 produced annually is from the widespread and ongoing destruction of rainforest and peatlands for commodities like paper and palm oil. This destruction has made Indonesia the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the US.
Home to an incredibly rich biodiversity—10 percent of the world’s mammals, 11 percent of the world’s mammals, and 16 percent of the world’s birds—Indonesia also harbors a number of endangered species including orangutans, Sumatran and Javan rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and Asian elephants.
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