In the once thriving and diverse rainforests of Indonesia, less than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in their natural habitat.
A new student organization has taken action to stop this number from declining, one signature at a time.
This past semester, freshman Josh Chamberland started Operation Tiger at the University, a campaign that came from Greenpeace, a worldwide direct-action environmental organization.
Chamberland said he has always had a passion for environmental issues and after taking an environmental course his senior year of high school he wanted to use this passion to make an impact.
Operation Tiger was the answer.
The campaign targets Asia Pulp & Paper, a paper company based out of Indonesia that manufactures pulp and paper products, typically tissues and toilet paper, he said.
“The problem is, to do this, they’re chopping down rainforests and destroying homes for animals like the Sumatran tiger and orangutan,” said Chamberland. “Because of this deforestation going on, Indonesia is actually considered the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after United States and China.”
Greenpeace recently ran a year-long investigation of APP, in which the organization found tree species from the Indonesian rainforests waiting to be manufactured into paper products and sold to corporations.
Chamberland began recruiting students to join this campaign by asking friends and seeking out students already in environmental groups at the University, he said. He now has a group of about 12 students who help out consistently.
“I actually saw Josh in the lobby of my dorm wearing a Greenpeace T-shirt; I love Greenpeace so we got to talking and he told me about the group,” freshman Tyler Reed said. “That was my first month at school here and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”
The group’s main goal is to get the University to switch to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper to ensure it will never support any corporations like APP that make revenues from chopping down rainforests, Chamberland said. Though the University doesn’t purchase its paper directly from APP, switching to 100 percent recycled paper takes away the risk of ever indirectly supporting similar companies.
“It’s hard to trace the chain of where the paper is actually coming from, but when you do, it’s surprising to find out the kinds of big name corporations that buy from there,” he said.
Chamberland’s group joined the ranks of 10 other campuses around the nation on March 15, when members of the group dressed as tigers and orangutans in the Union Oval collecting signatures for their petition.
It was a way to show both animals are coming dangerously close to both endangerment and extinction in Indonesia due to the deforestation, he said.
“The petition is for students to sign and show their support in bringing all 100 percent post-consumer paper to the University,” Chamberland said. “That day we got 365 signatures and we’re at a little over 840 today.”
To motivate his team members to gather as many signatures as they can, Chamberland said he has promised to shave his head when they hit 1,600 signatures.
Seeing Chamberland’s long hair go may be motivation for some, but sophomore Mari Deinhart has her own reasons for joining the campaign.
“I grew up on Guam, which is close enough to Indonesia to know the environment over there, and I want to do this,” she said. “I’m actually trying to start the Operation Tiger campaign over there this summer.”
The group hopes to collect as many signatures as possible, as well as get as many on-campus groups on board as possible, in hopes to draw attention from University President Mary Ellen Mazey in changing the University’s paper purchases.
So far, the group has joined efforts with Net Impact, Environmental Action Group, Offenhauer Hall Council, and Kreischer Compton/Darrow Hall Council.
The group will be in the Union Oval on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a solidarity event with Michigan State University to get its on-campus coal-fired power plant shut down.
Students can stop by to support the campaign or sign the petition for Operation Tiger, which is conveniently printed on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, Chamberland said.
“We’re really hoping we can make an impact here and get this to happen,” he said. “If someone can take the first step, it’ll open up a lot of doors for other colleges, and hopefully we’ll be using a ton more recycled paper throughout the country.”