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Boycotts are a crucial weapon to fight environment-harming firms

In October 2000, I was driving through downtown Boise, Idaho, and nearly careered off the road. Just in front of me was a giant inflatable Godzilla-like dinosaur, well over 30m tall. It was towering over…

Furniture retailer Harvey Norman has been targeted by activists, in a campaign described by the federal government as dishonest. AAP Image/The Last Stand/Matthew Newton

In October 2000, I was driving through downtown Boise, Idaho, and nearly careered off the road. Just in front of me was a giant inflatable Godzilla-like dinosaur, well over 30m tall. It was towering over the headquarters of Boise Cascade, one of North America’s biggest wood products corporations. For years, the firm had been tangling with environmental groups who blamed the company’s logging practices for declines in the extent of old-growth forests across the globe.

The huge inflatable reptile was the inspired idea of the Rainforest Action Network, who used it to label Boise Cascade a dinosaur of the timber industry. The blow-up dinosaur was headline news across the United States and the label stuck. Although Boise Cascade tried to deny it was yielding to environmental pressure, it ultimately agreed to phase out all of its old-growth wood products.

Environmental campaigns such as this one have become an increasingly important arrow in the quiver of conservation groups, for a very good reason. The world has become hyper-corporatised and globalised, with the result that, as I reported in 2008, deforestation is now substantially driven by major industries rather than by the exploits of poor people trying to make a living off the land.

Campaigns and boycotts get the attention of these large corporations, because they hit them where it hurts: their reputation and market share.

Last-ditch tactics

Boycotts are typically a last resort. The Rainforest Action Network tried for years to nudge, cajole and finally pressure Boise Cascade to phase out old-growth products, without success. Its gentler tactics worked fine with other big corporations such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, but it took a gigantic dinosaur to get Boise Cascade’s attention.

Globally, some of the most impressive environmental achievements have come via boycotts, or at least the threat of them. Just in the past year, four of the world’s biggest forest-destroying corporations have announced new “no deforestation” policies in response to such environmental pressures.

Among the worst of these was Asia Pulp & Paper, whose reputation had become so synonymous with rainforest destruction that the retailers selling its products began fleeing in droves. Today, the corporation has ostensibly turned over a new leaf and even thanked Greenpeace – one of its most persistent critics – for helping it to see the light.

Across the globe, boycotts have helped to rein in predatory behaviour by timber, oil palm, soy, seafood and other corporations. They have led to impressive environmental benefits, such as a landmark forestry peace deal in Canada and a pledge by Australia’s major supermarkets to stock sustainably-sourced tuna.

Banning boycotts?

But now, the power of boycotts might be on the brink of being reined in, after the federal government floated the idea of banning organised boycotts of companies on environmental grounds.

The move has sparked apoplexy among free-speech advocates, and came as a surprise even to observers whose expectations had already been lowered by the Commonwealth’s plan to devolve environmental powers to the states and territories.

Parliamentary agriculture secretary Richard Colbeck said the move would be aimed at “dishonest campaigns”, singling out the campaign against furniture retailer Harvey Norman, which activists accuse of logging native forests.

“They can say what they like, they can campaign about what they like, they can have a point of view, but they should not be able to run a specific business-focused or market-focused campaign, and they should not be able to say things that are not true,” Colbeck told Guardian Australia.

At odds with free speech

Predictably, environmental groups are unimpressed. Reece Turner, a forests campaigner with Greenpeace-Australia, told me:

This policy is at odds with the Liberal party’s professed commitment to uninhibited free speech. The Coalition is going to remarkable extremes to protect big industry from campaigns that are essentially focused on greater transparency of business practices. These campaigns are designed to inform consumer choices – something the Liberal party should be supporting.

One of the more notable aspects of the proposed ban is that it could directly conflict with the Coalition’s stated environmental priorities – one of which is a desire to slow global rainforest destruction as a means to combat global warming.

Of all the environmental actions undertaken to date, boycotts have probably had the greatest direct benefit for rainforests.

As an aside, the Coalition government has recently struggled to find a consistent line on both environmentalism and free speech. Straight after taking office it scuttled the Climate Commission, and is currently fighting to repeal a raft of other carbon policies. Yet it has also announced that Australia will use this year’s Brisbane G20 summit as a “catalyst” to help China, India, Europe and the United States to cut their carbon emissions.

At this early stage, it’s difficult to say whether or not the proposed ban on environmental boycotts will solidify into firm Coalition policy or merely fade away, its proponents having realised this could be too polarising an idea. Let’s hope for the latter. This is a scheme that deserves to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Join the conversation

85 Comments sorted by

    1. john tons

      retired redundant

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Right on Soul Mother! All of us operate within particular spheres of influence - we have a duty to inform our networks about the growing disconnect between what is legal/illegal and moral and immoral.

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    2. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy

      This is not about advertising and publicity - it is about deliberately targetting a company by telling consumers not to buy their products. Businesses are legally prevented from doing this to each other by the the Consumer Affairs Act, but the Act presently exempts boycotts supposedly based on environmental grounds.

      This would probably be OK if there was some mechanism that made environmental boycotts accountable to ensure that claims against a particular company are true, but there is no such mechanism and so dubious and dishonest claims are allowed to damage companies that are in fact operating responsibly and within the environmental regulations. That is the problem.

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    3. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      I think I understand your point, I just don't equate what is considered responsible and within regulations as always reflecting the best knowledge and practice in reality. Why else do some practices, say deforestation, continue legally when we are aware that deforestation is a worldwide issue and well past its responsible practice everywhere?
      I support that campaigns should be well researched and truthful, yet not all businesses, or indeed governments, actually practise this same level of research and truthfulness. As a particular example: the compromised bureaucratic process of EISs, procedures and approvals of CSG projects in QLD, but many other company/government practices/processes could be added to this list. Accountability should apply to all processes, but it currently doesn't seem to or lacks oversight - why single out NFPOs which play the role a public oversight and demand transparency where it may be lacking and challenges the moral and legal attitude of the day?

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    4. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Couldn't agree more, Suzy. "operating responsibly and within the environmental regulations." is in many cases an oxymoron. A bit like the Tobacco industry claiming they are merely selling a legal product. They are, indeed, though how ethically or morally responsible they are is somewhat dubious.

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  1. Jason England

    repairer

    However I find it breathtaking how green ideology can play this anti forest felling card against furniture and timber industries that sequester CO2 yet support and even subsidise the obliteration of magnificent rain forests awa dry forests to generate biofuels which results in increases in CO2 over fossil fuel, all in the name of sustainable energy.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      Here is the Rainforest Action Network campaigning against agro-fuels - i.e. biofuels made by big business.

      Biofuels on an industrial scale are not about climate change - they are about big business as usual.
      http://ran.org/getting-real-about-biofuels

      It was George Bush who introduced massive subsidies for biofuels as a way of channelling taxpayer dollars to his agri-business supporters in the USA and as a way of reducing dependence on imported oil.

      That is quite an own goal there Jason.

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    2. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Jason England

      Doesn't most logging go to wood chipping, which is hardly carbon sequestration?

      Even if it does not, it IS free speech in action and if it results in more sustainable outcomes I am all for it.

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    3. john tons

      retired redundant

      In reply to Jason England

      Finland is one of world's top exporters of timber and timber products. It also one of the few countries whose forests are actually increasing - furniture manufacture and preservation of old growth are not mutually exclusive.

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    4. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      It sure does Henry. Particularly for the Drax PS.

      But logging of good timber also goes to many industries in poor countries [like Tasmania] that make things including furniture for people like Harvey Norman to sell to us at prices we can afford.

      Beautiful, practical things that last us a lifetime if we look after them.

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    5. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to john tons

      Absolutely john. We all used to practice silverculture once.

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    6. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      Here is one of the USA's largest environmental groups, the National Resources Defence Council campaigning against turning "forests into fuels."
      http://www.nrdc.org/energy/forestsnotfuel/

      North Carolina, the source of Drax's wood pellets is home to a climate science denying Republican state government that has attempted to "legislate" against sea level rise. The fact that businesses in the anti-climate science state are profiteering from tearing down forests to burn or pulp them is what this the…

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jason England

      Jason, are newspapers part of your "Beautiful, practical things that last us a lifetime if we look after them"? The amount of timber going into furniture making, for example, in minuscule in comparison.

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    8. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      This sounds more like Al than George:

      How to clear-fell with credit:

      In Indonesia, rising demand for palm oil and timber, have led to the clearing of tropical forest land in Indonesian national parks. According to a 2007 report published by UNEP, at the rate of deforestation at that time, an estimated 98 percent of Indonesian forest would be destroyed by 2022 due to legal and illegal logging, forest fires and the development of palm oil plantations.

      Those same palm oil plantations are regarded as a net carbon sink and Indonesia gets credits for them.

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    9. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      You don't buy newspapers surely, Doug.

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    10. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      " try thinking for yourself."

      That's my trouble, Mike, I do.

      And it makes the things that people like you say when they quote the stuff you do, based on alarmist, activist, hypocritical evidence supplied by sites like NRDC, very questionable.

      If you're so keen on the football analogy, I think it is better if you don't play that game of the man and not the ball.

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    11. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      "Those same palm oil plantations are regarded as a net carbon sink and Indonesia gets credits for them."

      You need to provide evidence for that claim.

      But you once again highlight the importance of the environmental groups and the role of secondary boycotts in uncovering the carbon scams and stopping them.

      There is no doubt that as climate science denialism becomes a distant memory, there will be no shortage of large and small businesses who will jump on the "greenwashing" bandwagon and attempt to profiteer from plans to mitigate climate change.

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    12. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Malaysia does:

      " and, as reported in Malaysia's Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, oil palm plantations contribute to Malaysia's net carbon sink."

      It's a bit desperate to accuse me of exactly what you are doing and the point I am making.

      Which is, the unintended consequences of a lot of CC mitigation is doing crazy things like burning US forests in UK to "prevent" CC and allowing the wiping out of environmentally sensitive habitat while all the time adding to CO2 emissions.

      We can all be horrified after the blunder but it is doing the smart thing in the first place that makes the difference.

      Even James Hansen can see that a nuclear energy solution makes much more sense but most of his supporters just can't see that and these are the crazy consequences.

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    13. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      Again this is your point - an attempt at justifying the ban on secondary boycotts and freedom of speech. A point which you are now trying to obfuscate with bluff and bluster.

      "However I find it breathtaking how green ideology can play this anti forest felling card against furniture and timber industries that sequester CO2 yet support and even subsidise the obliteration of magnificent rain forests awa dry forests to generate biofuels... "

      Clearly environmental groups do not support doing "crazy…

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    14. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "LOL. When in a hole, stop digging."

      This is the hole and it's people like you who are digging it:

      This is what is happening under the REDD scheme, to encourage developing countries with economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions:

      "26 February 2014 | JAKARTA | Southeast Asia has more than 27 million hectares of forested peatland, and peat releases devastating amounts of methane and carbon when drained or burned. Approximately 80% of the world’s peatland is in Indonesia, and much of it is slated to be converted to palm oil plantations".

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    15. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      So Greenpeace is alarmed after the madness of carbon credits starts to become evident?

      Bit late, after the horse has bolted.

      You now just keep on reinforcing my point which you were denying upthread.

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    16. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      Now you are simply getting desperate. Your second claim does not follow from the first.

      You are firing buckshot at the barnwall in the hope of hitting something.

      These are the eligible activities under REDD "(a) Reducing emissions from deforestation, (b) Reducing emissions from forest degradation, (c) Conservation of forest carbon stocks, (d) Sustainable management of forests, (e) Enhancement of forest carbon stocks".

      Despite the intention, there is no doubt that these schemes do get scammed.

      It is the environment groups who are actively calling out carbon scams. Under the LNP proposal they will be severely restricted in their ability to do that.

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    17. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jason England

      Your point was ""However I find it breathtaking how green ideology can play this anti forest felling card against furniture and timber industries that sequester CO2 yet support and even subsidise the obliteration of magnificent rain forests awa dry forests to generate biofuels... "

      I have shown that your claim is nonsense. It is the environment groups that are opposed to and call out the carbon scams. The LNP law is an attempt to silence them.

      Debating you reminds me of this quote "Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a seagull; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory."

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    18. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Jason England

      If wood is mainly used for the production of items of lasting value then I am all for it. Of course, if boycotts were directed at companies who produce such objects I have no problem.

      The problem is the use of good timber for low value wood chipping.

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    19. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Jason England

      There is no green environment group in the link you provided.

      There are environment groups that have unwittingly or unwisely participated in REDD schemes. You might look at Conservation International's scheme in Noel Kempff NP in Bolivia. Expose by Greenpeace.

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    20. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jason England

      Let's not lose sight of the fact that what yo, Jason, term 'unintended consequences of green ideology' are actually the intended consequences of corporate, non-green political ideologies - it is those in power who continue to scam any attempt at improving our collective impacts and act in unethical ways. They also profit from their behaviour. The same cannot be said about those NFP organisations, like Greenpeace.

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    21. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, when you set up non-freemarket systems that allow carpet baggers to scam the world, guess what happens?

      It is this naïve, green, non real world ideology that causes the problem in the first place.

      When will they ever learn?

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    22. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jason England

      Who are these scamming carpet baggers, Jason? Selfish and profit at all cost driven individuals and corporations?
      In what way has the free market system operated in a superior way that you consider the problem to be caused by 'green ideologies'?
      Ideologies are all naive and non real world because they are a mental construct with no base in reality. It's in the name, they are ideas and ideas can change.
      Your argument says that wrongdoing is the fault of those who try to prevent wrongdoing because of their supposed oversights, but there are wrongdoers with a variety of ideologies out there doing wrong and it is not the fault of the 'green ideology' that they are doing so, whatever you seem to think.
      Whatever makes a red, blue, yellow or any other ideology less naive or more real than your green boogey man?

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    23. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, if you deny that selling CO2 indulgences is akin to snake oil
      and set up the gullible public to believe that by getting into this market is in their best interests, you simply promote and encourage these scams.

      It's one thing to rob people, but to devastate the environment while you do it robs us all.

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    24. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jason England

      Do not present your assumptions and beliefs about denial as mine.
      You misrepresent people with the connotations you attach to ideologies. It isn't the 'greenies' who devastate the environment and to present it as such is a kind of snake oil you try to sell.
      I'm not buying it.

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    25. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      "It isn't the 'greenies' who devastate the environment"

      Not intentionally but they often provide the ground rules that allow it to happen.

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    26. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jason England

      No Jason, that's completely upside down:
      The "Greenies" are not responsible for the bad actions of others, nor do they set the 'ground rules' for harm.
      Those who cause harm by subverting initiatives to their own ends are 100% responsible for their actions and cannot blame a third party for 'not preventing them' to act in this way or 'allowing this to happen' (as you put it). Ignorance is no excuse for continuing to do harm.
      Your logic is faulty: After your reasoning those who act are not responsible, but responsibility lies with those who do not stop them from acting - and that's completely unreasonable.

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  2. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    This move is part of the broader pro-corporate agenda of the current government (not that the ALP's environmental record is particularly good). Reduce environmental regulation, reduce environmental protection, don't enforce environmental laws and then regulate to protect corporations from being held responsible for anything by anyone.

    Welcome to Australian democracy.

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  3. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Is there any hope for us all when rapacious corporations continue to exploit the natural world.

    I wonder how the CEOs and execs of these companies sleep at night, while they delude themselves that their methods of operation are not harming the planet.

    I wonder if they even think of the ramifications of continual raping of the world's resources in such destructive fashions. If they have children I wonder if they think only of the financial legacy they will leave, rather than a beleaguered planet that is slowly dying.

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I don't think you people get it do you!

      So called 'rapacious corporations' are raping the natural earth on behalf of all of us, you and me because all seven billion of us want new kitchens every seven years.

      And we want new IPhones and IPads and PCs and new drugs and fuel efficient jet planes so that fossil fuel can fly us to Europe or Thailand for that well deserved holiday.

      By externalising the the blame for the destruction of the natural world onto CEOs and Prime Minister Abbot you are masking the real culprit - the person staring back at you from your new bathroom mirror.

      Gerard Dean

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I do get it Gerald....in fact I say as much in another article in TC today.

      But the fact that we want what the corporations are producing, doesn't change the fact that the money hungry corporations are doing the damage in the first place.

      One doesn't excuse the other.

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    3. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Leaders do have responsibility Gerard. The fact that our government is a corporate patsy is a real concern. The badmouthing of the previous government was thinly veiled criticism for them not crawling up the corporate rear end. The media failed to report a balanced picture of what was going on. When the public are fed crap then it's fair to blame those who are feeding them.

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    4. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Geard Dean trots out one of his favorite button pushers. Never mind that this "argument" has been repeatedly answered and refuted he keeps trotting it out.

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    5. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike

      You and most other posters here are in fact missing the point by just presuming that these boycotts always 'inform' consumers honestly, when they often do not. In fact, they often misinform them because they are pursuing their own agenda - an agenda that is also very well funded by misguided philanthropy stimulated largely by further misinformation based on unreal eco-catastrophe scenarios.

      Notwithstanding that there may be good reasons for boycotts based on factual information in developing…

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark, "presuming that these boycotts always 'inform' consumers honestly, when they often do not" - ah, but corporate marketing always 'informs' people in a truthful and transparent manner? I think I see your point, if not your motivation. "The Coalition Govt is right to make these activist groups accountable for being honest in their boycott campaigns" and I'm sure you support making corporations equally accountable?

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    7. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Markets For Change are calling on Harvey Norman and other retail companies "to adopt publicly available procurement policies that exclude the use of products from Australia’s native forests and from primary forests overseas". This is a matter of free information for consumers so that an educated choice can be made about buying plantation timber products or non-plantation timber.

      What's wrong with that? I haven't yet seen a call to boycott Harvey Norman stores except in relation to Gerry Harvey's call for the GST to be extended to online purchases.

      The rest of the campaign appears to me to be aimed at transparency about HN's business model.

      As to Australian manufacturers being put out of business: who are they? So far as I can tell most major furniture retailers in Australia sell product manufactured in China; that includes HN and Freedom Furniture.

      Finally, what is the problem with sourcing all such timber from plantations?

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    8. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      For some years now Harvey Norman have had a rotten reputation. Mainly it is to do with their so called 'aged' wooden desks which are, in fact prime non-plantation timber-(old growth forest).

      The company levels the trees and sends the timber overseas to Asia where nice 'aged' desks are made up from the crop. When the timber returns in desk form it bears labels saying Made in Australia from plantation timber.

      Boycott's on this sort of product should be imposed. Companies who lie and cheat deserve everything they get. It is typical of the Liberal Party to rush to defend shyster companies. Companies whose level of concern about the environment is the same as any of the Liberal Party hack.

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    9. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark, what do you base the claim on that Australia has no deforestation? Are you speaking of the present only or are you taking the past 200 year colonised period into account?
      The way I see it, we have deforested so much of this country, we cannot afford to do any more without losing unique biospheres, some may already be fatally compromised. Developing countries may only be at the beginning of this process, levelled up in scale and speed in comparison, following our 'developed' examples. It is necessary for manufacturers to set the best possible example in resource use, manufacturing practice and product longevity and educate consumers that this responsibility comes at a cost.

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    10. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy

      Yes, there may well be some deforestation in Australia as a result of clearing scrubby low woodlands for agricultural development, particularly in the backblocks of Queensland - although I think this has largely now ceased. It has certainly ceased on any significant scale in most of the southern states.

      But that has nothing to do with the production of timber from forests whereby patches of forest are felled and then re-seeded to regrow into new forests. That is from where Harvey Norman's…

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    11. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen - you wrote:
      "I wonder how the CEOs and execs of these companies sleep at night, while they delude themselves that their methods of operation are not harming the planet."

      I think that the CEOs and execs of these companies don't think at all in those terms. I believe their only thoughts are for the corporate bottom line and what they perceive is in the best interest of the shareholders. Harming the planet is simply not in their world view.

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    12. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      I'm always sceptical of those land clearing claims, Anthony.

      I've lived in coastal farming country all my life and 60 years ago when there were a far greater proportion of farmers than today all that beautiful farming country was fully cleared but the regrowth today, even where much of it is tree-change country and semi-suburbia, is more treed than it was then.

      The only country that has remained cleared is the best agricultural flats.

      It would be very difficult to measure the net effect but it is not like your link claims.

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    13. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Jason England

      Well, yes, you are correct to cite regrowth ... but only as evidence of the presence of growth other than grasses. Cleared land with regrowth does not equal uncleared land because the ecology of the regrowth is vastly different to what is described as 'native' forests, even open woodland around where I live in the Upper Hunter; in other words regrowth is very different to what preceded it, prior to clearing.

      The scientific citations in the article are from sound sources; you go ahead with your scepticism, I'm ok with evidence from the CSIRO and other reputable sources. And William Lines, BTW.

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    14. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony

      Yes, Markets for Change are calling for those things, but they are essentially telling lies to justify why this supposed need exists. So, for the consumer, the 'choice' is not based on facts as you believe.

      The boycott of Harvey Norman involved several occassions where activists surrepticiously went through their stores placing stickers on wooden furniture to persuade consumers not to buy them. This is about as direct as it gets in trying to restrict a business's trade.

      Who's likely…

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  4. Craig Morley

    Associate Professor Resource Management

    This is also happening in NZ, so Australia is not alone!!!

    Environmental protesters' Govt crack down
    By ANDREA VANCE ( 31/03/2013: - © Fairfax NZ New


    The NZ government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.
    Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced "stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference".
    Individuals who…

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  5. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    I don't support laws banning product boycotts just like I look forward to the repealing of Section 18C, however I am wondering if the Coalition is responding to the demonstrations and boycotts by the Socialist Alliance of the Max Brenner coffee shop in Sydney.

    Max Brenner is owned by a large Israeli food company and as a consequence has been targeted by the Socialist Alliance for its support and supplying of food to the Israeli Armed forces.

    What discomfits the onlooker is that the boycotts and demonstrations outside of the shop have an eerie similarity to those organised by Nazi thugs outside of Jewish shops in Germany in the 1930's.

    It discomfits me as well, but I don't think it justifies specific anti-boycott laws which may then muzzle green boycotts described above.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Nathan Green

      Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I agree Gerard, the banning of boycotts and demonstrations would be a terrible thing. It is one of the few things an ordinary person can do to show their support for the Palestinian people and protest the cruel Nazi like way the Jews have been treating them.

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  6. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    An example of government thinking on this matter. Tasmanian Liberal MP Eric Hutchinson was interviewed by Waleed Aly on Radio National on 23 September 2013 about a review of the Consumer and Competition Act the Abbott Government is (still) considering in relation to environmental boycotts. Hutchinson was attempting to explain to Aly how this interfered with, for example, the business of logging of forests. He said “environmental groups have an ideological opposition to these businesses.”

    Now…

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    1. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to John Newton

      John, environmentalism = threatened profits = bad for business = loss of donations to LibNat election coffers = bad for the country = ideology to be suppressed through brand new laws. By that logic, environmentalism is an ideology. Lone voices like ours can't overcome stupidity on such a scale.

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  7. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "This policy is at odds with the Liberal party’s professed commitment to uninhibited free speech". The Liberal Party supports free speech supporting Liberal policies and cronies, but is fanatically opposed to free speech that might embarrass the party, or its donors. 'Free' speech is a political football in our democracy.

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    1. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Yes, Doug. And the LNP has multiple standards. They are a dangerous and despicable lot.

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  8. Mark Poynter

    Forester

    This article is disappointing, and I would doubt that the author (Bill Laurance) has even read the campaign literature that supports the secondary boycott against Harvey Norman.

    If he had done so, he may welll have written a different article that questioned the use of such boycotts in the Australian context, the unwarranted damage it can cause to Australian manufacturers and retailers, and the worse environmental outcomes it can encourage by shifting our demand wholly to imports of products…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      The document is here
      http://www.marketsforchange.org/downloads/NoHarveyNo_Report_web.pdf

      Currently you are still allowed to read this document. How long before only the view of the timber industry is allowed?

      Like the view of this dude, the former chairman of timber company Gunns convicted of insider trading.
      http://www.smh.com.au/business/asic-still-wants-to-pursue-former-gunns-chairman-john-gay-over-proceeds-of-crime-20140226-33if0.html

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark, "those who are interested in resource use and environmental decisions being based on science and facts should be appalled and be applauding the Coalition Govts efforts". ROTFLMAO. Since when did the COALition have a Science Minister, or take any scientific advice they found unpalatable? Applaud the COALition? You must be dreaming.

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  9. David Sisson

    Gadfly

    Boycotts don't always damage a business. The so called CULLs (Cashed Up Latte Lefties) have been boycotting McDonalds for decades. But if anything, their boycott seems to encourage patronage from the wider population.

    Actually can someone explain why people oppose majority Australian owned Maccas so passionately, while they apparently have no problems with foreign owned fast food chains like KFC, Subway, etc.?

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to David Sisson

      As a parent of two teenage sons who refuse to eat junk from the likes of maccas or kfc, etc - i can vouch that they are not part of a CULL crowd. The worst thing i can put up in their defence is that they prefer real food with real flavour.
      Their 'boycott' seems to be free choice :)

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  10. Ralph Johnson

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    Maybe I have it wrong, but my understanding of the issue is that ngos are becoming more involved in trade and commerce through increasingly sophisticated green mail campaigns. Given the potential impacts of these campaigns, there is a view that they should be subject to the same tests under the Competition and Consumer Act as any other business to business interaction. If the campaigns are not based on false and misleading information, ngos should have nothing to worry about. If they are telling porkies to get me to avoid/boycott certain businesses or products, then they may have something to be worried about. Either forests are destroyed once they are logged and regenerated or they are suitable for world heritage wilderness dedication. Ngos can’t have it one way on Tasmanian wilderness extensions and the other way on consumer boycotts.

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    1. Bill Laurance

      Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      Ralph Johnson makes some thoughtful points but I'm not sure I'd entirely agree.

      Globally, large corporations have grown quite dramatically in scope and influence and I believe that a robust NGO community is needed to help defend the public interest vis-a-vis the environment and social responsibility.

      Invoking the Competition and Consumer Act could potentially have a chilling and suppressive effect on NGO activities. I personally think this has a greater potential downside than a corporation…

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    2. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      Ralph

      You are not wrong ... you are perfectly articulating the problems being caused in Australia by allowing ENGOs to be unaccountable for what they say.

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    3. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Bill Laurance

      Bill

      As I said in an earlier post .... there is a need to distinguish between ENGO activities in developing countries where their campaigns are more likely to be justified by poor environmental protection; from Australia where they are essentially claiming the same things despite forests reservation and environmental regulation being much stronger so that problems such as deforestation do not exist in relation to wood production.

      You may well be an expert on tropical forest issues, but you…

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    4. Ralph Johnson

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Bill Laurance

      Bill, While watching the activities of ngos in your capacity as a tropical forest biologist, what you may have missed is the successful campaigns in developed economies such as the US & Australia has not necessarily dampened forest products consumption. What you seem to be oblivious to is the unintended consequences of these campaigns.

      In simple terms, the successful campaigns have increased forest reserves in Australia, the US and Canada and on the demand side, shifted significant amounts of…

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    5. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      For over a decade Greenpeace Australia worked on passing legislation to prohibit the import of timber and timber products into Australia from countries where illegal logging was/is rampant. That legislation finally passed in 2012. Greenpeace has worked for decades trying to prevent the logging of orangutan habitat in Indonesia. Greenpeace rarely worked on domestic logging issues in Australia, not because the practices here are acceptable in any sense, but because the scale of the destruction in countries like Indonesia and PNG were global threats. ENGOs do pay attention to the implications and impacts of their work. Do your research before you give rein to your biases.

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    6. Ralph Johnson

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      So ngos can say and do what they like to people and businesses they don't like, but but the slightest hint of criticism is met with accusations of bias? I have done my research precious.

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    7. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      Not what I said. Your comments regarding NGOs not caring what happens in the rest of the world and out for money blah blah nonsense is simply not borne out by facts. Criticisms are fine - if they are well informed. Your particular comment wasn't - it was the usual stuff that the anti-greenie folks trot out with boring regularity and a complete lack of knowledge. As I said - do your research.

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    8. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Not true Mark Poynter, VicForests are currently logging 40 year regrowth at Tolmie & are scheduled to soon log even younger regrowth in Strathbogie. And nearly all that timber is going to woodchip 'biofuel' heating greenhouses, a terrible waste of the resource. Australia has more rules but that hardly matters when the fox rules the henhouse.

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    9. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Liam J

      Liam

      As I understand it, the area at Tolmie was badly damaged by the 2006 bushfires and it was decided that it was better to get what they can out of it now and regenerate it to grow into a more productive forest, rather than let it degenerate. Bearing in mind that VicForests must produce its timber from only a 6% portion of Victoria's forests so they take opportunities such as this in the interests of better future productivity.

      The harvesting of this area is producing some small sawlogs, but timber is too small or badly damaged is largely being used to heat greenhouses as you say. This is actually a good outcome given that previously they were heated by burning coal. The use of a renewable fuel such as wood is a better greenhouse gas mitigation alternative.

      As for the area at Strathbogie, I believe this is regrowth thinning which is a sensible silvicultural technique when looking to produce future sawlogs.

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    10. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Nonsense, logging native forest will never be greenhouse sensible, and logging at strathbogie will be clearfelling not thinning. VicForests don't call it clearfelling cos they leave a very occasional 'seed tree', but these quickly die given the incompetent management of regeneration in mixed species forests. There are precious few greenies up this way but VicForests lies are minting new ones daily.

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    11. Ralph Johnson

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Jerry, I provided examples you replied with a general blah blah attack. So much for the quality of your research. I have done mine, you still have not provided any evidence to back your blah blah. Look at some google earth images of Brazil or Indonesia or better still check the annual deforestation rates in those countries over the past 10 or 15 years. You might learn something more than blah blah.

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  11. Dick Adams

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Bill,

    I don’t understand why you chose that photo to begin your article. Not only does it contradict your article but supports the need for these regulations.

    The vegetation in that photo is clearly re-growth not old growth, given its size, high stocking (older and bigger forests suffer natural mortality), even age distribution and species make up (lack of species outside Eucalyptus). Even the harvested block shows no stumps that would come anywhere near old growth status.
    The fact that this was a stunt to convince consumers not to buy HN products on account of “Old Growth” defies logic.

    What makes me so incredulous, is that the evidence that ENGO’s claims are spurious is in the very photo they took and you used.

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  12. dame roddy emblèm

    author

    Your article does not suggest how we should go about boycotting the main perpetrator responsible for environment abuse in Australia - its irresponsible and, just by the way, illegal government.

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