Some environmental campaigns (not all) typically demonise their target using exaggeration, hyperbole, and just plain false information. Like Trump with Mexicans, Muslims, and good white supremacists. And the more gullible media usually play sucker and tag along.

Environmental campaigns

This is certainly true of a recent campaign against tissue paper and towelling launched by the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and (formerly ForestEthics). Their target is Canadian production of tissue paper and their aim is to persuade companies like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific to move from virgin to recycled fibre or to alternatives like wheat straw and bamboo.

We have no problem with a discussion of the relative environmental and performance merits of various types of fibre. We do have a problem, however, with the way these two groups characterize and demonise not only the tissue sector but also by implication the whole Canadian forest and paper industries. Readers are left with a falsely grim doomsday picture of Canadian tissue production.

The campaign talks about “flushing forests down the toilet” and logging “seven National Hockey League rinks each minute.” How about some facts? Facts like 99.8% of Canada’s forest land is not logged at all. Yes, 99.8 per cent[1]. And what about the fact that the 0.2 per cent that is logged, is logged mostly for lumber (timber and wood products) and not for tissue paper. And that the logging is subject not only to provincial sustainable forest management practices that include mandatory regeneration of the forest after harvest, but also to independent third-party certification audits, including those by a certifier whose credentials these very same environmental groups regularly promote.

Of course, there are claims that clearcutting “decimates the ecosystem.” Not pointed out is the fact that these groups’ preferred independent certifier of responsibly managed forests (the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC) recognises that clearcutting  is consistent with its standards when used in the right forest ecosystem, and that ForestEthics itself publicly supported a new clearcutting harvesting pattern called natural range of variation back in 2016: “we are pleased to see steps being taken towards timber harvesting that more closely mimic nature[2].”

The campaigners advance a false argument that post-consumer paper is environmentally better than pre-consumer paper[3], and publicly denigrate their competitors in the forest certification business, singling out the one that has more market share than themselves in Canada. This is like Sobey’s publicly dissing Walmart and Loblaw.

One more thing. The impression the promoters of this report give is that most tissue paper in Canada is made from “centuries-old trees” hewn from the Canadian boreal. Sorry folks! Only 1%, yes, one per cent of the Canadian boreal is trees over 200 years old[4]. Facts do matter. Get the real poop next time.

John Mullinder

Author, Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News

[1] Canada’s forest area in 2015 was 347,069,000 hectares (National Forest Inventory, Table 4.0.) The area harvested in the same year was 779,577 hectares (National Forestry Database, Silviculture, National Tables, Table 6.2). Therefore, 0.2 of Canada’s forest land was harvested in 2015.

[2] Press release of January 14, 2016: “FPAC commits to new forest management approach to mimic elements of nature. Other participating environmental organisations included Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ivey Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, TNC Canada, International Boreal Conservation Campaign and the Schad Foundation.

[3] “Is post-consumer paper better than pre-consumer paper? No.” Section in Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News, page 77.

[4] National Forest Inventory, Table 5.2 Area (1000 ha) of forest land by forest type, age class and boreal zone in Canada.