More than half a million people have stood up for free speech and for the Canadian boreal forest, raising their voices to call on the largest global publishers to pay attention and be our allies.
We bound the signatures in a handmade book, along with dozens of photos of people in front of significant trees in their communities, showing how much the forest means to all of us. Thank you to each and every one of you that have joined this campaign so far and enabled us to represent people power in a physical object.
Seeing what 500,000 names looks like on page after page of a beautiful book is humbling. But it does not even begin to honour what half a million people around the world calling for the same thing can do.
Why we are speaking up
The largest global publishers, including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette are buying paper for their books from Resolute Forest Products. This logging company is controversial to say the least. It logs in intact forests and threatened species’ habitat. It has lost environmental certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)on more than 6 million hectares of forestland. And it is suing environmental advocates like Greenpeace that believe the world has a right to know what it is doing.
Given the true weight of these books and the seriousness of the topic, we had hopes that the publishers receiving them would also see the gravity of the situation and be compelled to do something.
What the publishers had to say
Last Tuesday, Hachette Livre showed that they were ready to act. The third largest publisher in the world wrote an open letter to the CEO of Resolute Forest Products calling its legal attacks on free speech and environmental groups “excessive” asking whether there are not “other ways to deal with Greenpeace’s claims.” Hachette also recognised that it had made promises to its readers to only purchase sustainable paper and that Resolute needs to do better for the forest if it wants to continue to be Hachette’s supplier.
Unfortunately Hachette Livre’s leadership in taking this first step is not yet indicative of the entire publishing industry. So last week I visited publisher after publisher, all headquartered in New York City, to deliver the book with its 500,000 signatures to represent the power of the people calling for action.
First, we made a delivery to Macmillan in the historic Flatiron building. When we asked the CEO and other company representatives to plan for time to come accept the book, we were instructed to simply leave it with the security guard. They are trying to ignore the voices of 500,000, but for how long?
Next we handed over the book to Penguin Random House and received a respectable reception with someone who seemed to appreciate the book and what it represented. I have my fingers crossed that we’ll be hearing good things from them again soon. The largest publisher in the world cannot ignore all of us. They cannot ignore the best science, or the promises they have made to their readers and choose inaction which is effectively choosing the side of corporate bullies and a sad future for free speech.
We then handed over the book to Simon & Schuster. Unfortunately in order to get the opportunity to hand over the book, I had to promise not to talk about it. So this is me not talking about it. But I can ensure you all that our continued voices are going to be vital with this one.
Lastly we headed to the headquarters of the second largest publisher in the world, HarperCollins. Sadly, 500,000 people are not enough to warrant a single person from the company to talk to us. We personally called the Vice President of Corporate Communications and the security guard called up to the front desk. We were once again refused. So our book lies with an uncertain future inside HarperCollins’ mailroom. But what is not uncertain is Greenpeace’s resolve to continue to insist that HarperCollins stands up for free speech and forests. We will not back down and we ask you all to continue to stand with us.
Our voices are vital
In the end, I felt humbled to have the opportunity to personally deliver these books and cannot thank you all enough for contributing to them. It is our voices that are vital for free speech and for forests. Greenpeace will continue to bravely face the biggest challenge to our 45 year-history with you all by our side. Lets see what the future holds and hope that a second volume of these books is not needed before publishers live up to the promises they have already made and start being part of the solution for healthy forests and free speech.
See the digital version of the book HERE
Amy Moas, Ph.D. is a Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace USA