Rainforest Action Network campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action.
Since it was founded in 1985, the Rainforest Action Network has been working to protect rainforests and the human rights of those living in and around those forests. From the beginning, RAN has played a key role in strengthening the worldwide rainforest conservation movement through supporting activists in rainforest countries as well as organizing and mobilizing consumers and community action groups throughout the United States. Our first challenge was to bring the plight of the rainforests to public attention through education, communication, and direct action.
We began by convening the first international rainforest conference where activists from 35 organizations formulated a plan of action. This conference was followed by others which have helped to catalyze the growing world rainforest movement.
In our first direct-action campaign, we led a nationwide boycott of Burger King. Burger King was importing cheap beef from tropical countries where rainforests are denuded to provide pasture for cattle. This campaign succeeded in several ways. After sales dropped 12% during the boycott in 1987, Burger King cancelled $35 million worth of beef contracts in Central America and announced that they had stopped importing rainforest beef. The rainforest issue also began to gain ground in the public's awareness, and consumers began to appreciate the power they have to change things through their purchasing choices.
The close alliances that RAN has forged with grassroots organizations have been instrumental to the success of RAN's campaigns. RAN's grassroots allies carry on the essential work of educating local communities and gathering the critical mass needed to exert effective pressure for change when and where it is needed. RAN's monthly Action Alerts keep RAN's individual members informed about the assaults on the rainforests and what we as individuals can do about them.
Through media campaigns, conferences, and publications, our efforts have helped to make the rainforest issue the cause celebre that it has become in the U.S. In order to keep the rainforest issue from becoming just another passing fad that fades before the rainforests are actually saved, our efforts must be unrelenting.
Consumer education continues to be an essential activity of the Network. Consumers in the U.S. are beginning to understand the critical role of our consumption patterns in rainforest deforestation and how our actions here at home can help to protect rainforests abroad. A major focus in this regard is the trade in old growth wood products and our call for a ban on the logging of old growth forests. We are asking consumers not to purchase products made from old growth woods, unless they are verifiably produced from ecologically and socially sound logging operations and to bring their concerns to the store manager wherever they happen to be shopping.
Citizen protest through direct action is another way to put pressure on corporations, lending institutions, and governments that are destroying rainforests. RAN encourages its members to do both letter writing and public nonviolent demonstrations to express their convictions. Inappropriate development will never be stopped unless outraged citizens demand it. RAN is spreading the word through its international network, organizing protests, and publicizing the issue in the national media.
Our media campaigns, including full-page ads in the New York Times, continue to gather public support for rainforest preservation. Our research into the institutions and industries responsible for rainforest destruction enables a growing number of people to turn concern into effective action.
RAN works with environmental and human rights groups in 60 countries, sharing information and coordinating the U.S. sector's role in worldwide campaigns to protect the rainforests and their inhabitants. Through financial contributions and networking services, RAN supports the efforts of indigenous and environmental groups in tropical countries to achieve ecologically sustainable solutions within their own regions.
There are a number of organizations working on the rainforest issue. RAN is distinguished by its emphasis on grassroots education and action, its networking capabilities, and its commitment to mobilizing citizen activists to respond quickly and directly to the forces that threaten the rainforests.