Renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough once put it this way: “The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
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That question was put to us again this week when the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the Sumatran elephant as “critically endangered.”
The great animals have declined in population by 80% in three generations, due mostly to the destruction of rainforests that are clear-cut for timber, palm oil, and paper plantations.
If steps are not taken immediately to stop the devastation, experts with the international consortium say this sub-specie of about 2,600 Asian elephants will become extinct within 30 years.
30 years. That’s not even half a human’s lifetime. Or an elephant’s.
A problem like this calls for swift, formidable action, something with “teeth.”
Enter Rainforest Action Network, an organization of “aggressive agitators” who believe that by acting immediately—with hard-hitting marketing campaigns targeting multi-national corporations—a sustainable world can be created in our lifetime.
Several years ago logging giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)—a company RAN says is clear cutting vast tracks of rainforest in Indonesia—found itself the target of a RAN letter campaign asking global fashion companies to stop buying from APP and adopt responsible alternatives.
Levi Strauss & Co. responded immediately, and after negotiations with RAN, this month announced it has a new policy that excludes doing business with controversial fiber suppliers—like APP—linked to rainforest destruction. It also includes a number of other “green” policies, such as using recycled materials and reducing the use of packaging, hangtags, and construction materials in its offices worldwide.
Levi’s is just one of a list of corporations that have agreed to cut ties with APP due to its human rights and environmental abuses. Others include book publishers Scholastic, Hachete, and Simon & Schuster; toy companies Mattel, Hasbro, and Lego; fashion leaders Gucci and Tiffany and Co.; and office supply stores Staples and Office Depot. Their actions demonstrate the impact that targeting the “bottom line” can have.
Let’s hope it is in time to help save those Sumatran pachyderms.
To get a glimpse of Sumatra’s elephants, click here.