Authors around the world stand up for free speech and forests

Posted by jamie — 31 May 2017 at 3:00pm - Comments
Authors standing up to protect forests and free speech
All rights reserved. Credit: Various

Authors, journalists, poets and playwrights know that every time the right words are put to paper, or typed to a screen, our planet gets a little better. Because, without the right to express ourselves freely, we cannot make that positive change. More than 100 authors have pledged to defend free speech and those who peacefully protect the world’s forests. This pledge follows two multimillion dollar lawsuits filed by Resolute Forest Products, a Canadian company, to silence Greenpeace and’s exposure of its controversial logging in the boreal forest.

Here’s what some of the authors have to say:

Margaret Atwood, the Canadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale which premiered on Channel 4 last weekend (if you haven't seen it yet, go now!). In The Handmaid’s Tale, all but the most powerful women are forbidden to write and are denied access to books. 

"The endings of Handmaid's Tale, 1984 and Brave New World are written. Ours is not. 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."

Stephen Fry, actor and author of the memoir More Fool Me, and all-around lover of words, has made a career of speaking up, and stood with Greenpeace, whistleblowers and watchdogs on this important issue.

"Speaking as a serial blasphemer, I take freedom of speech very seriously. 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." 

Yann Martel is the author of Life of Pi which became an Oscar winning movie. His work is praised for its imagination and originality, and captured hearts and minds everywhere with its magical realism and deftly drawn characters.

"Ultimately we all benefit from free speech. If Resolute Forest Products manages to shut Greenpeace up with its heavy-handed legal tactics, we ALL lose. This is not just a question of preserving our environment but our civil society."

Lev Grossman, well-known book critic and fantasy writer famous for The Magicians trilogy, also a hit tv show, knows that words are magical and powerful beyond all measure, and stepped up to condemn bullies.

"I support Greenpeace in their urgent, important work defending the environment, and I support the right of everyone, everywhere to speak out in protest without fear of being bullied and silenced."

Rhiannon Lassiter spins fantastical tales like Bad Blood and the Hex trilogy, but is very serious about threats to the environment and anyone who defends it.

"We wouldn’t have books without paper but the paper produced by Resolute comes at a price. This company has damaged forests, harmed habitants and violated indigenous people's rights. Now they are trying to silence anyone who protests against them. All authors should urge their publishers to turn over a new leaf by ensuring our books are printed on ethical sustainable paper."

Children's author and illustrator Moira Munro has also spoken out against Resolute's aggressive attacks on free speech.

"The children who enjoy the books I've written or illustrated need a future. I want to know that publishers are taking the utmost care to source their paper from sustainable sources, preserving our forests as well as our freedom of speech. Resolute seems to pose a threat to both."

Campaigner and author Tristram Stuart knows how important it is for anyone to be able to challenge companies or governments in defence of the environment.

"It is vitally important for campaigning organisations everywhere that companies like Resolute discover they cannot use their gigantic corporate power to crush criticism of their actions. The most straightforward way companies will learn this lesson is for all of us who use free speech to protect the natural world to stand up and protest."

Anthony Doerr’s book, All The Light We Cannot See, won the Pulitzer and his writing wins praise from both readers and critics for its perfectly crafted language and page-turning plot.

"We must never silence the voices who speak to protect our children’s future. The more we can remember how interconnected we all are — the more we can train ourselves to empathize with the kids in our neighborhoods, beyond our borders, and in our futures — the better off we’ll be."

Thanks to Rebecca Solnit, 'mansplaining' became a cultural concept, following her book Men Explain Things to Me. While she didn’t invent the word, she gave voice to women everywhere with her sharp essays and culturally relevant writing.

"There is no free society without free speech, and when we say that we mean free as in freedom, as in liberty. But lawsuits that make speaking up unaffordably expensive are one way to quash that liberty arising from the free exchange of words, ideas, beliefs, truths. I’m proud to stand with Annie Leonard and Greenpeace for the liberty of speaking up for the climate, the natural world, and all of us who depend on it."

Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine, is a thought leader who sheds light on everything from the problems with capitalism to the importance of protecting our planet. Her new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need will be out on 13 June. She spoke out about the need to fight against  legal  tactics like SLAPPs to ensure the protection of freedom of speech

"We already have trade deals that allow corporations to sue governments when they deny pipelines, and a US president who has filled his cabinet with extremists who are hostile to the very idea that governments should protect people and the planet. We simply cannot afford a legal precedent where the most courageous NGOs are treated like organized crime. This upside down world must be put right. Resolute’s SLAPP suit against Greenpeace must be defeated."

Thank you for joining us in celebrating the right to freedom of expression and advocacy.

Learn more about all the authors who have have signed the pledge.  

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

Follow Greenpeace UK