A thorough investigation by the World Wildlife Fund of Germany has revealed that a significant amount of tropical deforestation in Asia has gone toward the production of children's books. In fact, over a third of all children's books may contain paper that was illegally logged in China and Indonesia.
According to the report, one of the tested books even 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 …"
"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," said Johannes Zahnen, forest expert for WWF Germany.
It's a tragic irony, indeed. Worst yet, the results of the investigation were likely understated, since paper analysis indicated that much of the pulp came from cleared areas of tropical forest with well documented impacts on endangered species like tigers, elephants and rhinoceros. Furthermore, the Asian paper industry is notorious for human rights violations and massive contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
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. The relocation of book production from Germany alone has grown nearly tenfold during the last 10 years.
Some of the companies involved in the report include Gold East Paper, Yalong Paper Products and Asia Pulp and Paper. These companies are known to be active in areas of Indonesia where illegal and unsustainable forest clearing is leveling tropical rain forests at a rate that could make them disappear within 10 years. Another recent investigation by Greenpeace revealed that 88 percent of logging in Indonesia is illegal in some way.
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.