Does paper use contribute to deforestation?

Many people and groups insist that it does because large amounts of trees are cut down to produce paper. Thus some amount of the forest lost every year must be the consequence of paper consumption.

Other people insist that the trees used to produce paper are farmed, planted and cut down for the purpose of producing paper. Thus the net less of forest has nothing to do with paper consumption, as those tree were only planted to produce paper.

Who is correct?

  • Welcome to Skeptics Stackexchange! You should add a couple links that show these claims are notable (at least one for each side. Probably not too hard to find). – Rob Watts Nov 7 '14 at 18:12
  • Isn't this too broad? I'd guess the answer is probably "both". Maybe it varies depending on the country, the decade (moment in history) and forestry/paper company. Assuming you're talking about current practice, which country or company might you be talking about? And perhaps what type of paper? – ChrisW Nov 7 '14 at 20:14

They're both correct.

Consider for example Victory for Forests: Disney Stands Up for Endangered Forests and Animals (from November 2012) which says,

Today, Disney adds its significant voice to the growing chorus of companies demonstrating that there's no need to sacrifice endangered forests in Indonesia or elsewhere for the paper we use every day.

Rainforest Action Network began working with Disney in 2010 after lab tests found that its children's books were printed with rainforest fiber from Indonesia.

This shows that some wild forest is still being harvested for paper, and implies that there are other/alternative sources of paper.

  • 2
    Anecdote: a friend of mine was invited to Canada to see the "sustainable forestry" initiatives there. He agreed that much of the forestry is sustainable, but not any of the forestry they were doing in "old-growth forests" (of which there were some remaining in British Columbia). He claimed it's not possible to "sustainably harvest" something that takes hundreds of years to grow. – ChrisW Nov 7 '14 at 21:14
  • IMO this is barely an answer. I'll delete it if it's downvoted or if someone posts a better answer. – ChrisW Nov 7 '14 at 21:26
  • Agreed, it depends on who is making the paper and from what. However, does demand for legitimately sustainable paper propagate illegitimate companies to fill it? I'd say, yes. Until paper cups become an utterly all encompassing cultural taboo, people will still just buy the cheapest ones. – Mazura Nov 9 '14 at 5:44

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