Rainforest Action Network activists arrested at Walt Disney Studios over paper protest


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It was rainy Wednesday morning when protesters from the Rainforest Action Network scaled the gate at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to hang a banner reading ‘Disney: Destroying Indonesia’s Rainforests.’ At issue is Disney’s use of fiber from endangered Indonesian trees in the 50 million children’s books it publishes each year.

Activists dressed as Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse chained themselves to the gates of the movie studio, blocking passage. They were arrested by police.


The Rainforest Action Network first brought the issue of fiber from endangered Indonesian rain forests to publishers attention in May 2010, when it released a report entitled ‘Turning the Page on Rainforest Destruction.’ The report found that nine out of 10 leading American publishers of childrens books were using paper derived, at least in part, from Indonesia’s rain forests.

An independent lab was hired to test the pages from a random -- and, the nonprofit admits, small -- sampling of children’s books. All the books -- like many American children’s books -- were printed in China, and the suppliers some of those printers use are connected to the aggressive farming of Indonesian rain forests.

The organization writes: ‘Indonesia’s rain forests, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are under severe threat from paper companies that rely on clearing natural rain forests and peatlands. The carbon emissions from this large-scale deforestation has made Indonesia the world’s third largest greenhouse gas polluting country, behind only the U.S. and China.’

Raising the issue of using pulp from Indonesian forests led many American publishers to amend their practices. Due to those changes, in November 2010, Rainforest Action Network recommended seven children’s book publishers -- Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Group USA (Pearson), Scholastic and Simon & Schuster -- to consumers for their strong environmental practices.

At the time, two major publishers were rated as companies to ‘avoid’: HarperCollins and Disney Publishing Worldwide.

In a release explaining Wednesday’s Disney protest, Rainforest Action Network described the company as ‘an industry laggard.’ Our sibling blog L.A. Now was unable to reach Disney for comment.

[Updated, 12:40, May 18: Disney has issued a statement regarding the protest. It reads:

This is nothing more than a publicity stunt, since as recently as last week we communicated to RAN in writing and in conversations, once again, our commitment to sustainable sourcing. As part of our focus on rainforest preservation and responsible paper sourcing, our 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report states that Disney seeks to have all paper sourced by our nonlicensed businesses be sustainable. We only work with manufacturers who have committed to us that they will only use sustainable paper.]

-- Carolyn Kellogg