Don’t you care about trees?
Someone recently asked me that question after reading “To Grease or Not to Grease”. My short answer was, “Yes, I do, very much, but I care about them appropriately and not out of proportion with all the many problems that exist in our world.”
Below is a piece I wrote during a writing group I used to lead. I had instructed the other group members to write for 20 minutes about anything that popped into their head. A bumper sticker I had recently seen popped into my mind, so I used it to write my piece that morning. When I read the result to the group, everyone thought I should submit it to a newspaper or magazine, but I never did. I will, however, share it below.
It’s a sarcastic piece of hyperbole which I can see folks taking offense to, so I apologize if it does offend anyone.
Before we jump on a bandwagon, we should make sure its sturdy and going in the right direction.
Contrary to popular mantra, we’re not killing the tree population by using paper. Trees are more of a easily renewable resource than oil and natural gas; and thanks to sustainable forestry, the clear-cutting days of old are mostly gone. There are actually more trees now in the United States than 100 years ago.
There’s also more plastic than ever today, sitting in land-fills, destined to outlive several centuries of mankind.
But, please, remember to refrain from using paper as we drink our bottled water, wear our sneakers, and type on our newly purchased computer, even though the one that was only three years old still works just fine. After all, what’s a few centuries of degrading cancer-causing phthalates in the earth’s ground compared to saving the life of a tree?
And what’s a moose’s life compared to a tree’s? Should we be concerned that moose can no longer live on Moose Island due to overcrowding trees? Please, let your conscience be at rest about moose extinction. We are doing our part for the world by saving trees.
Just because trees and paper products are bio-degradable and the leading recycled item in the United States is no reason to think that we need to channel our relentless zealotry into something better.
What does it matter that emulsifiers in our processed foods are causing obesity and the rise of diabetes? After all, we make sure we recycle the boxes after we eat. And why should it bother us that ketchup and pizza are now classified as vegetables in our children’s school lunches and served in styrofoam containers? Haven’t we made sure that every school cafeteria has a recycling bin for paper? And those air dryers in the bathrooms, using electricity which translates into carbon dioxide emissins? Don’t stress. We’ve eliminated paper towel waste and saved even more trees.
In the grand scheme of things, won’t our ruthless paper purge counter the effects of a global economy which introduces the bark beetle and Emerald Ash bore into our forests? After all, it’s these pests which are killing the Aspen, Ash and Spruce trees in the United States, not us.
Please people, wake up, people, and smell the trees. Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately. We apparently have embraced the forest to avoid reality.
Fact: In the same 100 years that we’ve been saving trees, we’ve put 600 million cars onto the roads and tapped into 95% of the world’s recoverable oil supply.
Fact: In that same 100 years, winter has shortened by an average of 17 days due to changes in the environment.
Fact: 74% of Americans are overweight.
Fact: 90% of the garbage we created is plastic, which is making its way into the oceans, leaching toxins into the fish we eat, causing cancer in our bodies.
This fact list can go on and on, but avoidance of these realities must not.
Saving trees and being responsible about recycling paper is a good and valuable thing to continue. It’s time, though, to also do more.
Imagine a world where every one in four women isn’t having a heart attack. Where New England once again has 21 varieties of lilies growing in the fields instead of the seven climate changes have reduce it to. Where a neighborhood only needs trash pick up once a month.
Then use that same imagination to be pro-active about making those changes reality.
And if we remain unconvinced that simply reducing paper is the answer to life’s problems, let us consider the wisdom of the bumper sticker:
“Have a problem with logging? Try using plastic toilet paper.”