By Tony Hastings
MELBOURNE — "Stop woodchipping old-growth forests" was the chant as 40 people from Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society and the Cross Campus Environment Network marched through the city on April 21. The action was organised in response to a call from Japanese environment groups, to highlight Japan's role in forest destruction around the world.
The group met outside the Itochu office, with banners and a letter-writing and information stall. Passing business people were informed of Itochu's role as a major importer of rainforest timber from Sarawak, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Solomon Islands, Brazil and Sabah. Itochu is also a 37.5% shareholder in Harris Daishowa, which owns the huge woodchip mill in Eden, NSW, which has been the export point for woodchips made from thousands of hectares of old-growth forest.
Japan is the world's largest consumer of timber from native forests. "Itochu are responsible for massive amounts of forest destruction, all over the world. They can only get away with this as long as the silent majority let them. Speak up, speak now, or forever hold your breath in a barren and treeless world", said Tony Hastings, spokesperson for the group.
Over 5 million tonnes of woodchips are exported annually to Japan from Australia, to make throwaway paper products. A banner in Japanese read, "Japanese consumers, please demand recycled paper products". Currently Japanese pulp and paper companies, such as Chuetsu Pulp and Paper, Daio Paper, Mitsubishi Paper Mills, New Oji Paper and Nippon Paper Industries, import rainforest and old-growth timber for paper products.
From the Itochu office, the group formed a long snake, holding onto a 40-metre rope, waving banners and chanting as they weaved through the lunchtime crowds in the city centre, before arriving at the Japanese Consulate General. Two people from the group were permitted to meet the consul and present the letters written during the event.
Hastings said, "The bright, white paper you feed into your laser printers and photocopiers, is manna and shining gum from East Gippsland, and if it's not that, then it is probably rainforest timber from the Pacific Islands. If all the consumers in the First World countries were to use only recycled paper or paper made from alternative fibres today, the forest destruction would end tomorrow."