This St. Patrick’s Day I was not particularly interested in wearing something green, or having holiday drinks with my friends. Instead, to be green. So, I dressed in orange and black, and stood outside of Barnes & Noble in Newport Beach, California to draw attention to the bookstore’s ties to illegal rainforest destruction in Indonesia.
Home of the endangered Sumatran tiger and orangutan, Indonesia’s Paradise forest is being destroyed at a break neck rate for products like toilet paper, packaging, and books. Greenpeace recently came out with a report, The Ramin Paper Trail,
linking the illegal logging of the protected ramin trees from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) mills in Indonesia to American products like some books sold at Barnes & Noble.
Over a quarter of Newport Beach households make $200,000 or more per year, according to a local newspaper, making it one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. In the belly of the beast, where profit and immediate pleasure can often come before environmental stewardship, sixteen of us gathered outside Barnes & Noble nestled in the Fashion Island mega-mall.
We held signs saying “Barnes & Noble: Booksellers and Forest Destroyers,” “Save Sumatran Tigers,” and “Save Trees”. We stood outside the entrance to the store for two hours, hoping the cloudy skies wouldn’t dump more showers on our cardboard signs and tiger face paint. I shivered
a little as the wind gusted through (I know our definition of “cold” is a little different in Southern California). But the conversations we had with interested customers kept us warm, especially when that included people taking action. Send a petition to all the companies funding Indonesian deforestation.
At the end, a group of us went into the store to deliver The Ramin Paper Trail report and a letter asking them to cut ties with APP to the manager. She told us she would pass it up to her superior.
Though our tone was playful and family-friendly, the truth of the matter is grim. On the surface, the bookstore contains aisles of glossy and beautiful books, but some of those books have a story that is anything but beautiful – they are printed on paper that used to be a rainforest home to animals and plants that are not so slowly disappearing from this Earth. I love books. I want more books to be published, bought, sold, and read. But not with paper that comes at the cost of orangutans, tigers, and the hundreds of other species, including our own.