“I don’t date girls that are into deforestation”
Greenpeace uses this quote in the context of their “Barbie, It’s Over” campaign against Mattel, Inc. over their sourcing of paper packaging for Barbie.
Tropical forests are the most biodiverse biome on earth, representing the hallmark of our biological and ecological heritages. Their growth, evolution, and complexity over millennia amount to the majestic haven of flora and fauna that live there today. More specifically, their important role in the global climate and meteorological systems make them a common, shared resource. The global society is the beneficiary. With this beneficiary status comes a collective responsibility and accountability to safeguard biodiversity and the global climate and meteorological systems. Like other biomes and natural systems and processes, tropical forests provide a wealth of services that benefit people nearby and continents away. This is true despite the reality that most people will never visit and experience one firsthand.
As the “lungs of the planet,” tropical forests are vital sources of life-sustaining oxygen, act as a natural carbon sink, provide recreational opportunities through ecotourism, are the physical and cultural homelands of indigenous peoples, provide habitat for thousands of species of flora and fauna, purify air, regulate global climates, are the source of pharmaceutical drugs, and protect against global climate change. Their ongoing degradation and deforestation is very disheartening amid a greater scientific understanding of their services and directly threatens the health, stability, and existence of those services. Illegal logging and economic development are the primary driving forces of degradation and deforestation. Economic development includes, but is not limited to, infrastructure development, housing and commercial real estate development, industrial development, and commercial agricultural, ranching, mining, and logging operations. Degradation and deforestation are exacerbated in countries and areas experiencing political and/or social unrest.
Many people would likely hold that tropical degradation and deforestation are unfortunate and discouraging truths. This view reflects the existence value of economics. In other words, people value tropical forests despite never using (from their perspective) and visiting them. The demand for a good whose commodities can be sourced from tropical forests also contributes to their degradation and deforestation. Greenpeace alleged Mattel to have used paper material for Barbie’s packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), who in turn is alleged to be degrading and deforesting vast swaths of Indonesian rain forest and peat swamp forest. Among the campaign highlights were signage hung on Mattel’s corporate headquarters in El Segundo, California, a Barbie-dressed activist driving a pink bobcat skip loader named “Barbaric” nearby, and activist arrests.
Purpose with Passion
Ultimately, Mattel announced that deforestation would be excluded from the supply chain as part of a new global policy. Greenpeace recognized the link between toy packaging and degradation and deforestation and in response launched an international advocacy campaign. Their campaign accomplished three things:
(1) It exposed corporate commodity sourcing,
(2) It conveyed how consumer demands for a good contribute to tropical forest degradation and deforestation, and
(3) It demonstrated how collective consumer action can change corporate policy for the better upon awareness, outreach, and education.
Education and awareness have great potential and power to incentivize changes in attitude and behavior. The creation of this fictions scandal and its ensuring relationship drama successfully served to arouse public awareness about the plight of tropical forests and helps shatter the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Simply stated, it is an attention-grabber. Mattel’s initial response was predictable, as no sensible corporation is inclined to publicly disclose and admit their alleged misdeeds.
By associating degradation and deforestation with a cultural icon relatable to people across many cultures and demographics, the campaign bridged a disconnect between consumers and tropical forests. In other words, it demonstrated how collective consumerism contributes to an enduring environmental problem of global proportions. Consider the campaign from a cause-and-effect perspective. Consumer demand for Barbie led Mattel to source paper packaging from APP. Public scrutiny and backlash persuaded Mattel to amnd their paper sourcing policy to exclude tropical degradation and deforestation in the supply chain. Check out Greenpeace USA’s “The Break Up” Flickr album!
~by Angelo Teachout
photo credit of Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfataustralianaid/10712654875 (License)
photo credit of Ken: https://www.flickr.com/photos/15157516@N02/4674670459/in/album-72157623149280529/ (License)
photo credit of deforested Peat swamp forest: https://www.flickr.com/photos/95747669@N00/661247561/ (License)
photo credit of deforestation: https://www.flickr.com/photos/crustmania/233523196 (License)
photo credit of Sumatran tiger: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/9122811106 (License)