Mickey Mouse: Ravager of Rainforests?

Those pesky activists from the Rainforest Action Network are at it again.

Today (May 19), four activists including a couple costumed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse were arrested outside the Burbank headquarters of The Walt Disney Co. They accused Disney of printing children's books with paper that is driving the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests after after lab test results found that paper used in Disney's kids books contained fiber from Indonesia.

Disney is the largest publisher of children's books in the world, producing over 50 million books and 30 million magazines a year. RAN has been critical of Disney's paper buying policies for more than a year, saying that:

its paper policy, released in March, fails to prevent controversial fiber and suppliers like Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and APRIL (Indonesia's largest pulp and paper companies) from entering its products.

RAN activists

This isn't a trivial matter. According to RAN:

Indonesia's rainforests, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are under severe threat from paper companies that rely on clearing natural rainforests and peatlands. The carbon emissions from this large-scale deforestation has made Indonesia the world's third largest greenhouse gas polluting country, behind only the U.S. and China.

In a buyers guide published last year, RAN found that Disney's paper purchasing policy lagged behind those of other other publishers including Scholastic, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster.

Disney isn't ignoring the issue. Its latest corporate responsibility report says:

Disney seeks to have 100 percent of paper sourced for product and packaging by its non-licensed businesses be sustainable. The paper sourced will contain recycled content, be sourced from certified forests, or be of known source origin. By the end of FY 2011, all paper used in paper-based books and magazines by Disney's non-licensed North American publishing businesses will fully meet the target.

But Disney is evidently moving too slowly for the folks at RAN and, they say, the policy isn't strong enough.

A Disney spokesman told The Los Angeles Times that today's protest was "nothing more than a publicity stunt."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. When RAN stages an event to grab attention, it's a publicity stunt. When Disney does the same thing, it's marketing.