"I'm risking my life to make this statement"
Exactly a month
after their newsmaking protest at a coffin manufacturer's convention, members of Rainforest Action Network (RAN) again were on Bay Area front pages, this time for unfurling a mammoth banner from the top of the Bank of California skyscraper in San Francisco.
Suspending themselves from the roof of the tower using rock-climbing ropes, activists Donna Parker and Ana Gerhardt opened a 1,225 square foot banner with the message: "Stop Mitsubishi's Rape of Mother Earth -- Boycott Mitsubishi's Bank of California." Plainly visible from the street, the sign was noticed by thousands. Parker and Gerhardt descended to the street of their own accord when evening wind conditions became hazardous. The two women were quickly arrested and charged with trespassing and conspiracy. Also arrested was Kelly Quirke, who acted as a go-between with police and building security.
According to a RAN press release, Bank of California -- owned by Mitsubishi Bank -- was the target of the protest because Mitsubishi Bank funds environmentally destructive projects around the world, according to a press release by RAN. RAN holds Bank of California accountable for the harmful practices of its affiliated companies.
"I'm risking my life to make this statement," Donna Parker said in a RAN statement, "because if we don't stop companies like Mitsubishi from destroying our rainforests, then everyone's life will be at risk. These companies have loyalty only to their profit margins, and try to make money as fast as possible. We have to let people know what is going on, and that together we can make a difference."
Mitsubishi Corporation is one of the largest logging corporations, says the RAN press release. It fully or partially owns timber operations throughout the world, and this deforestation causes the annual loss of millions of plant and animal species while doing immeasurable harm to the indigenous peoples who inhabit those lands. RAN says that every year, an area of rainforest the size of Italy is destroyed, and much of that destruction derives from exploitation by multinational corporations. Compliant governments cooperate with companies to plunder forest land for short-term profit.
Canadian forests clearcut to make cheap paper for phonebooks
A few days later,
members of RAN interrupted the Yellow Pages Publishers
Convention, also held in San Francisco. On November 2nd, the group inflated a 35-foot rubber chainsaw at the Marriott Convention Center to highlight opposition to the use of clearcut rainforest pulp
At the same conference, representatives from RAN, Greenpeace Canada, the Sierra Club, and others debated leaders in the Yellow Pages industry. Linda Coady, VP of Environmental Affairs for Canadian logging giant MacMillan Bloedel (MB), defended the company's position that it is doing its best to weigh environmental responsibility against the need to produce cheap paper.
According to RAN, companies like Pacific Bell and GTE buy paper from the corporation. Despite superficial actions by the government of British Columbia and MB, the logging is proceeding at a pace that will ensure the rapid elimination of these forests unless dramatic conservation measures are undertaken. Every 66 seconds, an acre of B.C. forest is clearcut.
"There is a serious problem in Canada's forests and all the government P.R. isn't going to make the problem disappear for U.S. customers," said Atossa Soltani, RAN Campaigner. "The only real question is: When is the yellow pages industry going to stop using clearcut rainforests for phone books?"
Also at the convention, the Clayoquot Rainforest Coalition held a news briefing that showcased paper samples that offer alternatives to paper made from clearcut rainforests. Al Wong, president of Arbokem Inc., displayed paper made from 50 percent straw and 50 percent recycled cardboard. Rainforest activists invited the yellow pages industry to participate in test runs of the paper.
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