Sad to say, when I open a book and turn the page, I never really think about the page itself – just the words printed on it. In the back of my mind, I know where the paper came from -- wood pulp, which is primarily from trees, which grow in forests. So when I saw a report by the World Wildlife Fund, I was horrified, as would be the Lorax.
The report reveals that a significant amount of deforestation in Asia's tropical forests is caused by the production of children’s books. Nearly a third of all of these books contains paper that was illegally logged in China and Indonesia. Paper analysis indicated that much of the pulp came from cleared areas of tropical forest that was home to endangered species like tigers, elephants and rhinoceros. To compound the problem, it is a known fact that the Asian paper industry seriously violates human rights contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
In Indonesia, some of the companies involved include Gold East Paper, Yalong Paper Products and Asia Pulp and Paper. They are leveling tropical rain forests at a rate that could make them disappear within 10 years. Another recent investigation by Greenpeace revealed that 88% of logging in Indonesia is illegal in some way.
Although only German children's books were tested, the investigation should raise red flags about book production worldwide, as paper is increasingly sourced from China. In response to the investigation, WWF Germany is calling on publishing houses to use paper certified as coming from sustainable sources or from recycled paper, and to give priority to paper bleached without the use of chlorine products. This call should go out to all publishing houses internationally. This may be another reason to seriously look at eBooks -- Kindles, Nooks and others could reduce the demand for paper -- illegal and otherwise.
One of the tested books had an environmental theme, and contained the prophetic words: "We are writing this in the year 2805. The human race has left the planet earth … nothing grows here anymore …"
Next time you open and book and turn the page, think about where that paper came from.