Paper exports drive forest destruction

Feature story - 2 May, 2003
Activists from nine countries protested the import of paper from the last ancient forests of Finland onboard the freighter "Finnhawk" in the Baltic Sea near Luebeck, Germany. The Finnish government continues to log Finland's rare and vulnerable forest habitats despite calls from scientists and conservationists for increased protection.

Twelve Greenpeace activists onboard several inflatables climbed onto the stern of the 'Finnhawk' to unfold a banner reading 'Ancient Forest Yesterday - Paper Today - Stop it'

Even in a wealthy, forest rich nation like Finland, industrial logging is jeopardising the survival of the country's last ancient forests. Forests which are crucial for maintaining biodiversity and the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami people and other communities. Over 500 species are also threatened due to deforestation. This logging is driven by the country's massive international paper industry.

The ship's cargo comes from the Finnish paper producing companies Stora Enso and M-Real. Every week similar cargoes are delivered to the German market. Paper is big business in Finland, it is one of the most intensive in the world. Finland is responsible for one quarter of the world's printing and writing paper exports, and one sixth of its paper board exports.

As a result Finland's forests, including the remaining old growth forests, are being destroyed by clearcutting, forest thinning and road construction. These are not just the last of Finland's ancient forests, they are some of the last fragments of ancient forests that once covered most of Europe.

Oliver Salge from Greenpeace in Germany says it's the European market's hunger for Finnish paper that is decimating the forest. "Each week paper delivered by the 'Finnhawk' disappears into innumerable magazines, envelopes, copy paper and packaging material, all at the expense of the forests. Ancient forests must be saved not pressed into paper and cardboard."

World-wide, Germany is the largest importer of Finnish paper products, importing 40 percent of the cellulose and 20 percent of the paper consumed in the country each year.

The activists in Lubeck want to tell German consumers that only a few pieces of the formerly vast ancient forests still exist in Finland. Less than five percent of the Finnish forest cover today is made up of ancient forests and only half of that is protected from industrial logging and further destruction.

We want the Finnish paper producing company Stora Enso, UPM Khymmene and M-Real to stop processing timber from ancient forests. The Finnish government must create protected areas and halt timber production in ancient forests.

What can you do?

Our activities in Germany are part of a larger effort to protect the world's remaining ancient forests by supporting ecologically sustainable and socially responsible forest use and the establishment of protected areas. To make sure you are not buying products coming from ancient forest destruction, look for the FSC® logo.

The FSC®, or Forest Stewardship Council™, is an international non-profit organisation that issues certificates for well managed forests and was created so that corporate buyers and individual consumers can identify products coming from responsible forest management. Look for the FSC® logo to the left on wood and paper products to make sure you aren't buying forest destruction or supporting illegal logging around the world.

When buying paper products, look closely to make sure they are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper or other agricultural waste.