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Greenpeace Teams Up with 100 Authors to Protect Free Speech, Boreal Forests

Image Credit: Greenpeace USA

Following the filing of two multi-million dollar lawsuits by Canadian pulp and paper manufacturer Resolute Forest Products to silence Greenpeace’s criticism of its controversial logging in the boreal forest, 100 authors and thought leaders, including Margaret Atwood, Michelle Alexander, John Maxwell Coetzee, Stephen Fry, Naomi Klein and Yann Martel — have signed the environmental NGO’s pledge to support free speech and stand up for forests.

If the lawsuits succeed in silencing public comment on corporate behavior, they could set a dangerous precedent for free speech.

“The endings of The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and Brave New World are written. Ours are not,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. “This is a chance to stand up for freedom of speech, the freedom to advocate for change and the freedom to question authority and to strengthen their protection under law. As a society, we need a positive outcome to this story.”

By signing the pledge, authors are committing to defend “freedom of speech as a pillar of democratic and peaceful societies, the right of individuals to organize and protest without intimidation and those who peacefully protect the world’s forests.”

"Speaking as a serial blasphemer, I take freedom of speech very seriously," said author and actor Stephen Fry, "It's not just about the satisfaction you get from speaking your mind, it's also about telling uncomfortable truths that need to be heard, and Greenpeace has been incredibly successful at exposing what the powers that be want to keep secret. But this case goes beyond Greenpeace to threaten every whistle-blower and watchdog with information that the rich and powerful want suppressed. I'm worried and I think you should be too."

Greenpeace recently published a report that showed major international publishers are purchasing paper from Resolute. It also called on the company to:

  • Adopt Free, Prior and Informed Consent as the basis for engaging with Indigenous People to ensure forest planning is driven by Indigenous knowledge and governance.
  • Suspend logging in and sourcing from High Conservation Value Forests including Intact Forest Landscape and Woodland Caribou habitat until science-based conservation planning takes place.
  • Publicly support large-scale, protected areas based on this science and Indigenous knowledge.
  • Recommit to the FSC system and regain lost certificates.
  • Work with environmental organizations, unions and communities to address legitimate economic concerns and ensure jobs are sustained.

Greenpeace is also inviting publishers to join this call to protect freedom of speech and work with Resolute to become more sustainable.

Other notable authors who signed the pledge include Man Booker Prize winners Julian Barnes (The Sense of an Ending) and Ian McEwan (Atonement), Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr (All The Light We Cannot See) MacArthur Award winner Deborah Eisenberg (Twilight of the Superheroes), Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies), William Shatner (Up Till Now), Alec Baldwin (Nevertheless), Jane Fonda (My Life So Far) and more.

"Publishers and authors are natural allies in our fight to protect free speech. Our campaign celebrates the power of words and the incredible work that authors and publishers do every day to ensure critical thinking and the spread of ideas in our society. Now, we're asking publishers to disavow this heavy-handed attempt by a paper company to silence dissent," said Amy Moas, Senior Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace USA.

In addition to the pledge, Greenpeace has also launched a free speech campaign, releasing a series of videos across its social media channels. “Our Voices Are Vital” seeks to raise awareness about the issue, garner support from free speech advocates around the globe and invites them to add their own voice to the conversation.

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