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German book industry faces green change

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Berlin (UPI) Mar 23, 2009
The German publishing industry is facing accusations that production of its books is destroying rainforests in Asia, thus enforcing climate change and the loss of wildlife.

Germans are serious book enthusiasts. The industry is Europe's biggest, with more than 1 billion books printed in 2008 -- that's around 12 books for every German.

While reading is to be commended, the paper used for the books is increasingly sourced from rainforests in Asia, a study by the World Wildlife Foundation states.

The German branch of the conservation group tested a selection of German children's books and found that nearly half of them contained "significant traces of tropical wood that is only found in virgin forest," Deutsche Welle Online reports.

The global book production industry has increasingly moved to China, where processing and printing is cheaper. Thirty-five percent of books imported to Germany are from China, WWF says.

Chinese printers get most their pulp from Indonesia, where companies such as Asia Pulp & Paper are accused of cutting down rainforest.

Recently, more than 400 non-governmental organizations, including WWF, warned against doing business with APP, the world's third-largest pulp company.

"APP and its daughter companies destroy massive portions of rainforest and that way threaten animal species like the orangutan, reinforce climate change and take away the livelihood of indigenous people," Johannes Zahnen, a paper expert with WWF said in an interview published on the group's Web site.

Deforestation accounts for 15 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions and experts have long tried to stop the cutting of forests in an effort to save endangered species and the climate.

Despite the fact that people increasingly read news online, write e-mail instead of letters and use word processing programs instead of typewriters, global paper consumption has increased sevenfold since 1950 to 367 million tons per year.

Zahnen says rich nations, including Germany, are using most of these resources. Germans, for example, use more paper per year than all of Africa and South America combined.

People need to change their consuming behavior to counter this development by forcing publishing houses to offer green products, Zahnen said.

The WWF urges consumers to buy books printed on recycled paper or paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a brand for ecological and socially friendly forest management.

"That means no clear cutting, no pesticides, special protection for animals and respect for the rights of indigenous people," Nina Griesshammer, a forest officer with WWF, told Deutsche Welle Online.

Several publishing houses in Germany have decided to offer only books printed on FSC-approved paper. Zahnen said consumers are becoming increasingly aware that their purchasing behavior can make a real difference.

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