“It is about time we remove deforestation, tiger extinction and human rights abuses from our children’s books. Unless the publishers and printing companies clean up their supply chain, Little Red Riding Hood will no longer have a forest to run through on her way to her grandmother’s house”, says Lars Løvold, executive director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
In order to save money, Norwegian publishers are outsourcing their book printing and manufacturing to China. China is the number one importer of timber and pulp from Indonesia, where enormous areas of rainforest are destroyed to meet the global paper demand. The pulp and timber is ultimately used to produce books and other printed materials, which in turn end up in Norwegian bookstores. According to Statistics Norway, close to half of all picture books for children imported into Norway in 2014 came from China.
Rainforest fiber in 11 of 24 books
In RFN’s investigation, 24 randomly chosen children´s books sold in Norwegian bookstores were tested. Paper samples from the books were analyzed in a laboratory in the USA, which identified fibers from rainforest timber (mixed tropical hardwood) in 11 out of the24 books. Although RFN’s test basis was relatively small and thus can not be considered statistically representative, it is notable that nearly half of the books (from 8 of 14 different publishers) contained fiber linked to rainforest destruction.
Similar investigations of children’s books in other European countries and in the USA have also found mixed tropical hardwood in significant amounts of the books tested. Hence, the Norwegian results are part of a larger trend in the publishing industry, where printing of children´s books on paper stemming from destroyed rainforest is a widespread problem.
Causing trouble in Indonesia
Indonesia is home to some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world. However, it also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. It is estimated that more than a million hectares of rainforests are being cleared every year.
“The rainforest in Indonesia is under enormous pressure. Without urgent action to remedy the problems caused by the pulp and paper industry, paper linked to rainforest destruction will continue to find its way into Norwegian children’s books”, says Løvold.
Millions of people depend on Indonesia’s forests for their livelihoods and cultural identity. The destruction of natural forests frequently brings paper companies into conflict with indigenous peoples and other local communities, and severe abuses and human rights violations are common. The logging and the ever-expanding timber plantations are leading to the endangering of animals such as the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.
Norwegian publishers must take responsibility
Unfortunately, it is impossible for a consumer entering a bookstore to distinguish books that destroy the rainforest from books that do not. Therefore, Rainforest Foundation Norway has launched a consumer petition demanding that Norwegian publishers take action and stop printing books on paper that contain mixed tropical hardwood.
“No parent wants to destroy the rainforest while reading a bed time story to their children. The publishers have to change their current policies and practices so that they prevent paper from rainforest destruction in their books“, says Løvold.