Tuesday 31 July 2012

To Mandy From Mandy

Sometimes you read something, and don't know whether to laugh or cry. Today is one of those times - the other Mandy is in bed with the nastiest paper company in the world. 

In a recent interview with Pulp and Paper International, that well-known organ of the pulp industry, Peter Mandelson, aka The Prince of Darkness, aka 'Mandy', explains that he has been hired by Asia Pulp and Paper as a consultant, gushing that 'it is more than an opportunity, it is a privilege to help a company like APP'. 

Peter Mandelson, you will remember, is a master of spin. As Tony Blair's right-hand-man he turned the UK's Labour Party from a socialist party into a bastion of capitalism, steering us directly into the economic and moral shambles that we'll no doubt remain in for years to come. A master of spin and double-speak, he massaged the left wing of British politics so far into the centre ground that it became indistinguishable from Thatcherism. 

And now, he has the 'privilege' of working for APP - Asia Pulp and Paper - and his job is presumably to carry out a similar act of legerdemain. There isn't a paper company on the planet with a worse reputation for forest destruction and trampling the rights of local communities than APP. They are responsible for massive deforestation in Indonesia, taking over vast tracts of land without the local indigenous people's consent, razing forest to the ground and replacing it with monoculture plantations of alien species, like acacia. When I visited Indonesia to research my book, Paper Trails: from trees to trash, the true cost of paper, I was steered away from close investigation of APP because their security forces were deemed too dangerous. If you're interested, you can read about it in chapter 5. 

This is a bad company, and now they're being promoted by one of Europe's most powerful men. After playing his part in various scandals in the UK, Peter Mandelson became Trade Commissioner for the EU, and it is this role that is useful to APP. The company has a track record of reneging on debt and using wood of at best 'questionable legality' (see a recent letter to European export credit agencies for more details). Next year, the European Union will bring in strict new rules banning the import of wood and paper products that come from illegal timber. Peter Mandelson's job is to work out how APP can flaunt, or get around, these rules.

What bugs me most about Peter Mandelson's skin-creepy interview in PPI is how he scoffs at the environmental and human rights organisations that have been campaigning tirelessly for years to try to limit the damage being wreaked by APP on Indonesia's forests and forest people. He sanctimoniously urges NGOs 'to stop dwelling on the past and start focussing fully on the future'. But a recent report from Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of Indonesian organisations, shows that APP's promises for the future have no substance whatsoever. 

What Peter Mandelson is ignoring is that the environmental and human rights community has been talking about the future for years. The future of the forests and their people is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Back in 2006, a huge consensus about what we want the future to look like was achieved, and more than 50 organisations in Europe signed up to a Vision for Transforming the Pulp and Paper Industry. There's an even bigger network signed up to a similar vision in North America. We've been focussing on the future for years, while all APP has been focussed on is trashing the rainforest and telling lies. 

Peter Mandelson needs to wake up to the reality of the present - the people who are struggling today to make their livelihood because they have lost their land under a pulp plantation, the carbon emissions from the deep peat soils laid bare by APP's logging machinery, the tigers and orang-utans whose dwindling rainforest habitat is being cut down as you read this. Of course we shouldn't believe a word of APP's so-called 'Sustainability Roadmap', and the reason is neither because of the past nor the future, it's because of what is happening to the Indonesian forests to supply APP's pulp mills right this minute. 


Sunday 8 July 2012

Greedy bastard!

On Friday night a deer got into my vegetable garden. It didn't just stroll in, it forced its way under the fence, then feasted. It ate every single brassica plant in the place: all the cabbages, calabrese, kale and most gutting, the 40 brussels sprouts plants I have been lavishing care on (they're Bill's favourite vegetable). It demolished the entire row of peas, snapping the broad beans plants (which are not to its taste) in order to get at them. It trampled the onions in order to devour the carrots. It snacked on the lettuces and had a tasting of potatoes.

Fruit for pudding, naturally: it stripped the apple and plum trees of every leaf and as the damson was a bit tall it snapped the main stem in half, to make sure it didn't miss a single shred of foliage. Then, just to complete the devastation, it smashed its way out, ripping the mesh of the fence and tearing nails out of posts.

To say I was upset yesterday is to understate the matter. But by the end of the afternoon I'd reached the point where the fence was repaired, and thanks to the generosity of neighbours in offering materials and brassica plants to try again, I was contemplating a possible future for the garden. By this morning, I was being philosophical about the fact that we share this place with wild animals, and with new, stronger defences in place, I was planning how I'd replant the beds.

But while I slept, the deer, clearly a cabbage addict, busted into my main garden for a second feast. My fruit cage is intact, except that a deer got in there already in April, whcih neatly trimmed off all the fruiting shoots and grazed the strawberries to the ground, so there's barely a berry in the place. Last night's kale-junky invader sniffed out every single brassica, even the pretty red cabbages I'd put in amongst the herbs and sweet peas for colour, and razed them to the earth. It trampled around on the seed and bean beds, scoffing as it went. It chewed the apple and pear trees to smithereens, munched the raspberries, sheared the cherries and roses and bit the shoots of all virtually every single willow withy in my basketmaking grove.

It is quite incredible what one ungulate can eat in one night.

Why did it wait until this year? For 12 years the garden has been deer proof, but most years I am pretty slack about keeping on top of it. This year I have lavished attention on it and, until yesterday, it was the best it has ever looked. I was looking forward to bumper crops. I suppose, ironically, this means it is the first time it has been worth invading.

What guts me is that we live on 11 hectares, all managed as regenerating native woodland, intentionally left wild with no non-native species. We only use 0.1 hectare for our own food production. The damned deer has 99% of the croft to indulge itself in whatever it wants! We don't like them to eat the trees, we ask them politely not to whenever we bump into them, but we basically tolerate them taking a share of the growth, rather than fencing out not only them but also the badgers, foxes, pine martins, otters and wild cat. But not content with 99% of the croft, the greedy bastard has been coveting my cabbages, and has now taken to breaking, entering and theft.

I am a vegetarian, sandal-wearing peacenik, but I tell you, it's enough to set me to sharpening a spear. Bring back the bears and wolves, that's what I say.