TAKING BACK DEMOCRACY RIO+10 INTERVIEW RANDY HAYES
Randy Hayes is the founder of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) an NGO which works to stop old growth logging, halt destruction of tropical rainforests, and protect the human rights of those living in and around those forests. He was President of RAN at the time of this interview, and remains a boardmember.
Founded in the USA in 1985, RAN gained national prominence with a grassroots organizing campaign that in 1987 succeeded in convincing Burger King to cancel $31 million worth of destructive Central American rainforest beef contracts. Protecting forests and challenging corporate power has remained a key focus of RAN’s campaigns since, and has led RAN into campaigns that have led to transformative policy changes across home building, wood purchasing and supplying, automobile, fashion, paper and banking industries.
In 2019 Randy became the USA Director at the World Future Council, a global forum of respected individuals championing the rights of future generations and working to ensure that humanity acts now for a sustainable future. Randy is also a former Director of the Turning Point Project and sits on the Advisory Board of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Rainforests: how much have we lost since Rio, what do we need to do to save the rest?
Oddly I was in the deserts near the Grand Canyon in North America, with the Hopi Indian tribe, when I learned about the significance of the rainforests issue. That was in the late seventies, early eighties. I started Rainforest Action Network and for 17 years we have been battling the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the transnational logging companies, and to little avail. We have lost, in that time we have lost most of Indonesia and Malaysia's rainforests. The island of Borneo is no longer the remote place with hunting and gathering tribes. Now China is importing the last remnants of tropical hardwoods from South East Asian rainforests. There are four great forest left on this planet, right? You've got the mighty Amazon, you've got central and West Africa, you have British Columbia leading up into Alaska, and you've got Siberia - Siberia is 22% of the world's remaining forests. So we are down to four forests. I believe that we'll save between 50 and 70 per cent of what's left, and then we're going to have 500 to 5,000 years to restore and re-grow the world's rain forests, but that's the job we have to get done.
Are the lumber companies taking sustainable forestry seriously now, or is it still a free-for-all?
David Brower used to say "trying to save a forest by nice logging is like trying to sober up by drinking martinis!" There's a lot of intention to certified logging and sustainable logging, particularly of tropical rainforests. I say we need to leave all of the world's primary or old-growth or ancient forests alone. We have taken too much! Much of China was once an old-growth forest: it's gone! Virtually all of Europe was once an old-growth forest: it's gone! And the sirens we hear in the background is the sirens of desperation at a world that's falling apart. You know, in North America, 98.3 per cent of the old growth forests in the 48 states in the US, they're gone! So not another stick! We need to re-structure the wood-products sector of the global economy. And in terms of providing the lumber and building materials for 6 billion people going to 8 billion going perhaps to 10 billion, in terms of the paper needs that we have, we're technologically clever. We can do that without destroying the old growth forests. Again, that's the task at hand, that's what we have to get done.
What about timber alternatives, kenaf and hemp and paper substitutes?
Sixty per cent of the paper in China was made from non-timber products like rice straw. There are a lot of agricultural residues and agricultural plants like kenaf and industrial hemp that are fantastic building materials and paper-making materials. This is jobs and economic development! There's a tremendous amount of economic growth that we could have by solving the world's environmental problems. You know: this can create the social equity that human rights groups want and need, this can create the kind of livelihood indigenous peoples around the planet need. We can be clever, but not if we allow the oil companies and the other transnational corporations to run the world through the G8 or even a sub-set of the G77. We have to take back democracy if we're going to orchestrate these solutions!
Would you like to say anything else?
Yes, one more point. When we look around the world and we see the degree of deforestation, we see the climate change, we feel in our gut level the weather patterns change, we realise we're the last generation on Earth that's going to have a chance to save the rainforest, to orchestrate the paradigm shift to ecologically sustainable development that is socially just. So, to the young people out in the audience: there is reason for hope! We can make this paradigm shift, we can make this ecological U-turn, we can build an ecological utopia on this planet, and in many respects we can do it within our lifetime! We could have, in 10 to 20 years, virtually all of our energy from renewable energy, all of our transportation shifting towards mass transportation, industrial agriculture replaced with organic agriculture that's soil-building and not soil-destroying. These are the components of the solution, so we have to get out there and do it!