Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network (RAN), founded in 1985, is an activist group that works to protect rain forests and their inhabitants worldwide. Its strategy includes imposing public pressure on those corporations, agencies, nations, and politicians whom the group believes are responsible for the destruction of the world's rain forests by organizing letterwriting campaigns and consumer boycotts. In addition to mobilizing consumer and environmental groups in the United States, RAN organizes and supports conservationists committed to rain forest protection around the world.
RAN's first direct action campaign was the boycott of Burger King. The fast-food restaurant chain was importing much of its beef from Central and South America, where large areas of forests have been turned into pastureland for cattle. RAN contends that "after sales dropped 12% during the boycott in 1987, Burger King canceled $35 million worth of beef contracts in Central America and announced that it had stopped importing rainforest beef...The formation of Rainforest Action Groups (RAGs) that staged demonstrations and held letter-writing parties in U.S. cities helped make the boycott and other campaigns a success." RAN states that there are now over 150 RAGs in North America alone.
RAN also works with human rights groups around the world, attempting to protect and save the cultures of indigenous peoples dependent on rain forests. The group helps support ecologically sustainable ways to use the rain forest, such as rubber tapping and the harvesting of such foods as nuts and fruits.
RAN urges the public to avoid buying tropical wood, such as rosewood and mahogany, and plywood made from rain forest timber. The group also recommends that people not buy rainforest beef, which is often found in fast-food hamburgers and processed beef products.
RAN is strongly pushing its boycott of the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi, which makes televisions, VCRs, fax machines, and stereos. RAN points out that "Mitsubishi has big logging operations in Malaysia, Borneo, Philippines, Indonesia, Chile, Canada, and Brazil...It is the world's number one importer of tropical timber." Other corporations that RAN has criticized for damaging rain forests include ARCO, Scott Paper, Coca-Cola, Texaco, and CONOCO, as well as such international agencies as the World Bank and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
RAN operates an extensive media campaign targeted at companies and decision-makers who create policy on rainforests by running full-page advertisements in such major newspapers as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, RAN's publications include its quarterly World Rainforest Report ; its monthly Action Alerts ; The Rainforest Action Guide ; and The Rainforest Catalogue, offering books, videos, bumper stickers, T-shirts, and other products promoting rainforest protection, as well as cosmetics and food made from rain forest plants.
Among the victories achieved by or with the help of RAN are the halting of a plan to cut down the one-million-acre (404,687-ha) La Mosquito Forest in Honduras—made famous by the movie The Mosquito Coast —which is essential to the cultures and livelihoods of some 35,000 indigenous people; forcing the World Bank to stop making loans to nations that destroy their rain forests; stopping oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon by CONOCO and Du Pont; preventing the opening of a major road to take timber out of the Amazon to the Pacific Coast; and persuading Coca-Cola to donate land in Belize for a nature preserve.
Nevertheless, the destruction of the world's rain forests continues on an enormous scale. As RAN's director Randall Hayes points out: "Over 50 percent of the world's tropical rainforests are gone forever. Two-thirds of the southeast Asia forests have disappeared, mostly for hardwood shipped to Japan, Europe, and the U.S. And this destruction continues at a rate of 150 acres per minute, or a football field per second."
[Lewis G. Regenstein ]