Once upon a time in a far away land there was a forest…
With fewer childrens’ books being produced in Germany and even fewer being produced from German paper pulp, WWF Germany subjected 51 German children’s books produced in south east Asia to analysis for the presence of tropical timbers not associated with plantations.
More than a third of the books tested positive for significant traces of tropical wood, including one which ironically commenced with the words “We are writing this in the year 2805. The human race has left the planet earth… nothing grows here anymore…”.
The results are likely to understate the problem, as much plantation pulp comes from cleared areas of tropical forest with well documented impacts on species which can include endangered tigers, elephants and rhinoceros, human rights violations and massive contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
“We chose children’s books as a striking amount of the production has been relocated to Asia, with nearly two thirds of German children’s books imports now coming from China alone. The relocation of the book production from Germany to Asia has grown nearly tenfold during the last ten years” said Johannes Zahnen, Forest expert WWF Germany.
“There is also the irony that it is children who have the most stake in the future and who will be most impacted by unsustainable book production.”
Risks that wood used is from illegal logging is high as the Chinese paper industry has close and increasing ties with companies active in areas of Indonesia, where forest clearing is destroying large areas of peat forest shielding vast sources of carbon.
Forest draining and destruction in the Sumatran province of Riau alone results in greater emissions than the industrialised nation of the Netherlands, with 40 per cent of the destruction being tied to the company Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its suppliers.
APP, in turn, is increasing its inroads into the Chinese pulp and paper industry, through associated companies such as Gold East Paper which provides paper for books printing and Yalong Paper Products, which includes direct production of picture and drawing books for children among its activities.
WWF Germany is calling on German publishing houses to use paper certified as coming from sustainable sources, used recycled paper and give priority to paper bleached without the use of chlorine products.
“We supply scorecard to find the most environmentally friendly alternative for a given product.”