Greenpeace Victorious After Five-Year Forestry Struggle

Kimberly-Clark Bows to Kleercut Campaign Demands:
Adopts New Environmental Policy
, by John J. Berger, Ph.D and Lani Maher

We hear of so many environmental tragedies and good battles lost in the environmental arena, but sometimes, steps are taken in the right direction. Greenpeace’s Kleercut campaign appears to be one such success story.

For five years, the Kleercut campaigners have worked to pressure Kimberly-Clark, the multinational paper and consumer products company, to stop supporting the destruction of ancient and endangered forests, like the boreal forests of North American. Kimberly-Clark is the world’s largest tissue producer and the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottenelle toilet paper, as well as diapers and other products.

In addition to efforts by Greenpeace, the company was also receiving pressure from clients demanding answers to hard questions and threatening to terminate their contracts with the tissue giant. After nearly five years of public campaigning by Greenpeace, the company’s level of awareness of forest-related issues and sustainability had reached a tipping point. That then resulted in the development and adoption of what he believes is one of the strongest paper policies on the planet, according to Greenpeace Canada’s Forest Campaign Coordinator, Richard Brooks.

On August 5, 2009, Kimberly-Clark released a new environmental policy that was developed in conjunction with Greenpeace to promote the protection of ancient boreal forests in Canada and other treasured forests worldwide. The tissue giant vowed to exclusively use Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp in the production of Kimberly-Clark products and agreed to increase its use of recycled fibers from 29.7% to 40% by 2011. While Kimberly-Clark’s operations will still involve logging, the provisions of its new fiber procurement plan now emphasize environmental values.

Even more impressive than the company’s new policies, is its dedication to implementing them. Since the plan’s adoption, Kimberly-Clark has stopped purchasing pulp from the Kenogami and Ogoki boreal forests in Northern Ontario, in response to the refusal of forest managers to provide Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp. While these forests are maintained by private companies, they are subject to some regulations and are used, in part, by the public for recreational purposes. Old-growth makes up much of these forest management units, however a very small percentage of the forests are protected from logging and development. Prior to the adoption of their new paper policy, Kimberly-Clark purchased 325,000 tonnes of pulp a year from clearcut logging operations in the Kenogami and Ogoki Forests.

Only time will tell how faithfully Kimberly-Clark will implement its new policies and how sustainable those policies will eventually prove to be. The company has agreed to hold meetings with Greenpeace representatives every six months to discuss ongoing implementation. “I believe that Kimberly-Clark is fully behind the policy and committed to implementing it,” Brooks said.

To read Kimberly-Clark’s fiber procurement plan in its entirety, please click here.

For more information about forests, their global importance, and strategies for their protection, please see Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection by Dr. John Berger

Also, check out this video from the Kleercut Campaign. Congratulations again to Greenpeace for running a successful campaign, and to Kimberly-Clark for committing to better environmental practices. We hope they’ll apply them fairly and vigorously.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWtzZzqylhI&amp

Indonesian Palm Oil Production Causes Mass Deforestation

by John J. Berger, Ph.D and Lani Maher

Recently, deforestation has been a prominent issue amongst scientists and policy makers worried about climate change. The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen has called worldwide attention to the issue and challenged us to find a way to slow the destruction of forests around the world.

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) that is used in many commercial food products sold in the United States. However, as a recent CNN article points out, most of those products simply list palm oil as ‘vegetable oil’ in their ingredient list labels. Therefore, many people are completely unaware of palm oil’s existence, let alone its uses and the environmental damage that is occurring as a result of its production. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world leaders in palm oil production and much of the rain forest in these countries is being clear-cut and burned to make room for expanding palm oil plantations. The island of Sumatra in Indonesia has already lost about 85% of its rainforest to palm oil production.1 Oil palm crops are also being cultivated to make biodiesel fuel. However, the destruction of carbon-sequestering rain forests, which contributes to global climate change, under the guise of biofuel production, which connotes environmentalism, is misleading for the consumer and only benefits palm oil producers. To learn more about deforestation and climate change, palm oil production in Sumatra, and the threats it’s posing to Indonesian forests, watch the video below.

For more information about forests, their global importance, and strategies for their protection, please see out Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection by Dr. John Berger

UN-REDD Program Has Potential

The United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD program) has received a lot of media attention lately, in the buzz surrounding this year’s U.N. climate change Conference in Copenhagen. Concerned scientists and citizens around the world had hoped a new international agreement addressing climate change would come out of this week’s conference, and many are supportive of the U.N.’s proposed REDD program, which provides countries with incentives to conserve their forests and slow climate change by paying those countries not to cut their forests. However, according to the New York Times, leaders will likely delay making such an agreement this week. Hopefully a framework for a future agreement will emerge from the talks in Copenhagen.

To keep up with the debate and the conference’s progress, please visit the conference website and check this blog often as we will be posting updates.

For more information on forests and their global importance, and strategies for their protection, please, please see Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection.

Climate Change Threatens Pervasive Forest Loss

by John J. Berger, Ph.D and Lani Maher

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Aspen leaves showing extensive damage done by the aspen leaf miner
Photo: ©2006, Benson Lee, Copper Center, Alaska

An article by Nicholas Riccardi in Friday’s Los Angeles Times cites global climate change as the primary cause of Sudden Aspen Decline, which has been sweeping through forests of the American West in recent years. Rising temperatures and increased drought conditions—both attributed in part to global warming—have increased populations of insects, such as the aspen bark beetle and aspen leaf miner, to which aspens are highly vulnerable. SAD has ravaged aspen groves in Colorado and elsewhere, significantly transforming the landscape.

Whereas these forests are declining due to the effects of climate change, forests globally have the potential to reduce climate change. Through photosynthesis, healthy forests contribute oxygen to the atmosphere and remove carbon dioxide by storing carbon in plant tissue. This lowers the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Decadent or dormant forests, however, release carbon. As aspen groves die, they stop taking up carbon and release the carbon they had stored.

Forests, of course, can also affect climate locally and regionally by releasing moisture. Tree roots withdraw water from the soil for transport up the stem or trunk to the leaves where the moisture evaporates. The increased atmospheric humidity can reduce or prevent drought. Trees can also extract moisture from the air by their contact with low fog, causing it to condense on leaf surfaces and drip to the ground, where it can add substantially to total annual precipitation. Trees also moderate local temperature extremes and wind velocities.

Badly infested aspen grove. These trees should be predominantly green, given the time of year that this picture was taken
Photo: ©2006, Benson Lee, Copper Center, Alaska

“In addition to their influence on [local and global] climate, forests purify water by filtering it through litter and soil. Much of the water we drink, either form surface or underground sources, comes from forested watersheds, including water that accumulated eons ago. Forests also increase the amount of water reaching groundwater reservoirs by slowing the rate of surface runoff (which helps prevent floods), thus increasing the percolation of runoff in to the soil. This helps recharge deep groundwater, raises the water table, and makes for more persistent streamflow during dry seasons, benefiting vegetation and wildlife . . . Soil and forest litter absorb rain like a sponge and release it to vegetation and groundwater slowly . . . More than half of the water supplies in the western United States flow from national forests.”2

 

Aspen trees, like most forests, provide a rich habitat for many different plant and animal species. The grasses that sprout under aspen groves help slow runoff, hold soil, reduce erosion, and encourage infiltration of water into the ground, which is important for making water available to nearby metropolitan areas. Therefore, the decline of the aspen in the American West means not only a loss of scenic beauty, ecological vitality, and municipal water supply, but is a harbinger of the pervasive forest loss that climate change will bring to much of the American West and Southwest.

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1 John J. Berger, Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection (San Francisco, CA and Chicago, IL, Forests Forever Foundation and Center for American Places at Columbia College, Chicago, 2008), pp. 13-14. Distributed by University of Chicago Press.
2 Ibid.

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To read Nicholas Riccardi’s article, Global Warming Blamed for Aspen Die-off Across the West, please click here.

New Hope for The American Chestnut

We see very few forestry success stories, but here’s one that looks promising! Since the introduction of the Chestnut Blight Fungus to the United States over 50 years ago, the American Chestnut population has been declining and continues to struggle to survive. However, according to the American Chestnut Foundation, a new blight-resistant chestnut was developed last year by breeding an Asian blight-resistant Chestnut with the American Chestnut. Some 500 such trees have been planted and seem to be doing well so far. The American Chestnut has a particularly high growth rate and subsequently, a high carbon capacity. Therefore, it could eventually play a small but important role in our fight to curb global climate change. Click Here for the full story!