Eden, take two

IssueMay 2006
Feature by Andrew Frisicano

A Greenpeace-commissioned satellite map of the world released on 13 April has shown that only 10% of the world is covered by intact forest, at the same time the most valuable of these forests are being threatened by logging and farm expansion.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), activist groups are working with local organisations to stop the destruction of the largest remaining forest in the Asia Pacific region. On 11 April activists from the Rainbow Warrior demonstrated in front of a ship being loaded with plywood made from PNG's Paradise Forest and destined for Japan, Korea, and the United States. Earlier in the year, researchers dubbed the Paradise Forest “Eden” after finding dozens of previously undiscovered plant and animal species living there.

Milling about

The milling industry in Papua is under pressure to report its timber sources, as paper mills often receive timber from dubious and unregistered suppliers. A 2004 Greenpeace press release claimed that at least 76% of logging in Indonesia, which includes West Papua, is illegal. The satellite map shows that forests in the region are being destroyed faster than any other on Earth. Greenpeace is working to establish eco-enterprises which will protect the remaining forest, in addition to setting up a Global Forest Rescue Station in the forests of PNG to work with environmental interests toward the prevention of illegal logging.

Similarly, Global Witness is work ing in Burma to prevent the illegal exportation of Burmese lumber into China. Exports increased last year by 12%, putting the value of illegal logging operations at US$350 million. Global Witness is calling on the Chinese government to support agreements it signed to co-operate in preventing environmental crime.


In the Amazon, the global demand for soya has increased rainforest destruction to create more farm land. Greenpeace's “McAmazon” campaign is drawing attention to the role that McDonald's and other fast food chains play in the destruction of forest, due to soya's use as cheap animal feed. In the past, the demarcation of indigenous lands has been shown to greatly decrease the deforestation within it. However, the infringement of soya growers on indigenous land, especially in the Mato Grasso region, has been widely permitted by the local government. On 6 April Greenpeace activists blocked a ship owned by Cargill, one of the region's largest soya producers, from docking in Amsterdam and unloading its cargo of Amazon soya. Cargill has been named by Greenpeace as one of the companies leading the charge for illegal and unethical farming.

Survival is working to force the Brazilian government to recognise indigenous land claims. President Lula has been criticised by eighty-six Brazilian tribe leaders for his government's indifferent policy towards the rights of indigenous tribes.

Clearing the logjams

Another major threat to indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest is logging, driven by new roads that would allow machinery and trucks deeper into the Amazon. However, last February Brazil's President Lula announced plans to make 16 million acres of land into a national park, theoretically saving it from potential deforestation. In Canada, the native Grassy Narrows First Nation notified the chief executives of Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi-Consolidated on 28 February to “immediately cease and desist from all logging and industrial resource extraction on our territory” or face a “fierce international campaign”. The warning came after twelve years of negotiations and a three-year blockade failed to stop the logging activity on the community's traditional land. Much of the land's old growth habitat is being destroyed by the company's clear cutting operations, its application of pesticides and its seeding of the land with monoculture trees. A lawsuit from the Grassy Narrows Nation demanding their right to the land and its preservation is pending. The Rainforest Action Network supports the Grassy Narrows Nation by collecting donations, arranging speaking dates, and drawing media attention to their cause.

Topics: Global south, Green