An update from our Tasmanian Campaigner, David Lee:
This past week, RAN Senior Campaigner Bill Barclay and I were in Tokyo, Japan, to help our Japanese staff host three forums focused upon the serious problems with old growth logging in Tasmania. Japanese paper companies purchase over 80 percent of the woodchips produced by Gunns Limited, the Australian timber company that is rapidly clearing Tasmania’s ancient forests; in fact, just three companies—Nippon Paper, Oji Paper and Chu-estu Pulp—comprise 70 percent of Gunns’ woodchip market. The goal of the forums was to provide Japanese companies, NGOs, citizens and the media with greater information on the tragedy that is occurring in Tasmania and to discuss potential solutions. In other words, why it might be a bad idea to source timber from a company that clear-cuts old growth forests, napalms the cleared land, kills hundreds of thousands of native wildlife, and attacks anyone who opposes it, as well as how to avoid such practices and still have adequate supplies of woodchips. RAN staff were lucky enough to be joined by several experts from Tasmania, including an ecological scientist, NGO leaders, and Peg Putt, Leader of the Tasmanian Green Party.
By most accounts, it was a very successful week: the Japanese activists were really enthusiastic; the response from the companies was fairly good; and I was encouraged by how much media interest in our campaign has grown. We had a full house for our public forum and were able to make important connections with NGOs interested in working to save Tasmania’s forests and endangered animals. Many of the Japanese companies that buy products from Nippon, Oji or Chu-estu finally seemed to understand just how egregious Gunns’ practices are and that a solution needs to be found.
That solution is simple: all Nippon, Oji and Chu-estu need to do is request that Gunns does not include any old growth or high conservation value forests in their supply, and these forests will take a huge step towards being saved. Gunns can’t sell them elsewhere because no one else will buy them – not even other bad logging companies like APP in Malaysia. There are detailed maps of critical forest areas readily available, and adequate supplies of woodchips from other sources, such as plantations, ready to go.
Unfortunately, Nippon, Oji and Chu-estu were noticeably absent from the company forum. RAN had arranged to meet with Nippon and Oji last week, but they pulled out at the last minute. Why? Because forestry officials from the Australian government wouldn’t attend. Why? Because they hadn’t printed their latest information booklet. Give me a break! These paper companies just want to continue making as much profit as possible by buying woodchips from old growth forests that no other company will.
The good news is that now that their customers and the Japanese public have learned the truth about what is going on in Tasmania, questions are starting to be asked and momentum towards change is building. Companies are improving their purchasing policies, asking not to have old growth woodchips from Gunns included in their supply, and pressuring their suppliers to improve their own practices. Japanese activists are talking about Tasmania, informing their networks, and asking companies to make progress. Having grown up around activists in Okinawa, Japan, it was awesome to see the strong interest and enthusiasm that our trip generated in Japan’s greatest city. My hope for the future protection of Tasmania’s ancient forests is improving every day (as is my recovery from jet-lag).