Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dodgy campaign by the Wilderness Society?

The Wilderness Society (WS) is running a campaign against Officeworks stocking Reflex copy paper as timber from native forests is used to make Reflex . I'm a member so I got an email asking me to sign a petition. This time, I was not as enthusiastic as I am usually.

I have my doubts about the campaign. It is just too simplistic. Australian Paper is using secondary re-growth forest not old growth in the manufacture of Reflex. According to the Wilderness Society, "there is more than enough recycled and plantation wood fibre to meet our needs". Maybe, maybe not. The link from the email takes you to a website that claims that Reflex can be wholly produced from recycled paper and plantation timber with the use of plantation timber from the Green Triangle in Western Victoria. Do these plantations have excess wood that they are currently unable to sell? I imagine the volume of timber required to produce half of the stock of Reflex that is currently consumed is in fact a lot. So does this mean that more farmland will be converted into plantations, and does the WS think that plantations are a good idea? Plantations are mono-cultures - ecological deserts that can suck up water and nutrients and provide no home for birds, animals, bugs or bees. Plantations cut wildlife corridors just as much and maybe more so than logging.

Driving through a plantation landscape as I did a few years ago in the north-west of Tasmania is profoundly depressing. Little beauty and less wildlife. It's an industrialized landscape.

What we need is plantations with diversity built into them - which is pretty close to saying secondary re-growth forest that is logged on a sustainable cycle. When old growth forest is safe from any logging (which is hopefully soon), we need to think differently about secondary re-growth forest, and we want more of it. We want farmland converted into forest, and that may mean some of it will be logged. We want the number of trees on farmland increased, and that may mean that some will need to be logged to give a return to the farmer.

The WS is claiming that logging releases large amounts of greenhouse gases especially the post-logging burning. Yet Australian forests are adapted to fire - that fire is need for the seeds to germinate. We actually need fires in forests to control fuel load and to maintain biodiversity. There are also studies that show that mature forests potentially store less than a growing forest.

Here's a few points in Reflex's favour:
It is 50% from recycled or plantation sources.
Australian Paper (and Officeworks) have a 100% recycled option. WS could say next time you go to Officeworks support environmental policies by buying this option. Demand can do the talking.
It is FSC certified. A good chunk of the office paper we use is imported from uncertified forests in Indonesia, China and Thailand. This is what our tropical rainforests are being turned into. Are any of the other brands stocked by Officeworks from these environmentally unsound sources? Reflex creates Australian regional jobs, with a commitment to environmental standards. Is Reflex then the right target?
It is made from wood that is a by-product of operations to produce high quality sawlog and the sawlog is added value timber that is a longer term storage of carbon than the paper made from the trunks of plantation trees.

I did ring the Wilderness Society. The person I spoke to did not have an answer to my queries and gave me the number of the campaign manager but I'm yet to have my call returned. In calling Reflex ''ethical paper" Australian Paper were being provocative. How can paper be "ethical"? It's inanimate. The WS needed to think their response through.

I am left wondering if this is a knee jerk reaction, comfortably targeting old foes and diverting resources from better campaigns. It seemed overly simplistic to me.

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