Sunday 22 Apr 2007
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come
– Chinese Proverb
One of the nicest people I’ve met this year, Christina Niven, kindly tagged me in the latest blog meme going around, the subject of which is the types of magazines the players in this week’s tag game subscribe to.
The answer for me is zero, and this meme struck a particular chord with me yesterday when I first came across it over at Bill Slawski’s blog. It so happens that yesterday I had called
all of the companies from whom I receive catalogues and asked them to remove my name from
their mailing lists. This was the result of my reading a fascinating little book about bird
migration – Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu.
I’d like to share a few facts with you from this book that will help explain why I no longer
wish to receive catalogs or magazines.
1/4 of the Earth’s intact forests are the boreal forest of Canada.
300 bird species breed in this forest, including 1/3 of all the migratory birds that
journey thousands of miles each year from South America in order to nest in these trees.
Each year, 8 million tons of trees are cut down in the boreal forest in order to produce
catalogs for companies including J.C. Penney, L.L Bean, J. Crew, Land’s End and others.
Magazines currently account for the loss of 35 million trees per year.
The lives of birds are so intricately intertwined with the health of humans and of the planet
in general that the loss of them would have devastating effects on life as we know it.
Due to habitat destruction around the globe, the populations of countless wild birds have
decreased by 50% over the past 25 years.
The question this puts to us, then, I believe, is whether there is anything that could possibly
be important enough to print in a magazine or catalogue that would justify the loss of the
boreal forest and the birds that depend on it for their lives. For me, the answer to this
question is an obvious one, but each of us has to reckon with the consequences of our choices
in our own way.
All of the companies from whom I received catalogues in the mail also have websites. I can browse their inventories and shop online with them whenever I want to. The same applies to many, many magazines. As any Internet marketer will tell you, businesses exist to fulfill consumer demands. If we consumers demand that the boreal forest be cut down so that we can have reading materials, companies will gladly do so, provided we pay them for the service. Our choices, our dollars dictate what happens to the Earth and all of its inhabitants.
90% of the world’s paper consumption occurs in North America, Western Europe and Asia. As North Americans, our choices matter hugely in this regard, and by withdrawing our funding from practices which destroy the very things that support life on Earth, the market ceases to be. Producers would then be obliged to begin offering more of their written content on-line and to turn to eco-friendly sources when producing paper is essential. Bamboo, hemp and a variety of other fibers can be grown in a single season and provide excellent alternatives to most of the things that have traditionally been made of wood. To me, there is something truly profane in the thought of an ancient tree being hacked to the ground in order to become a sheet of newsprint that will be read for 2 minutes and then thrown away. It is so incredibly wasteful, when such materials could so easily be produced from simple crop plants that can be sown and grown in a year, or when the entire production process could be removed completely by moving operations onto the Internet.
I dearly love to read. Books are treasures to me. Careful managing of forests could enable mankind to harvest a certain percentage of trees for important uses, but it is my belief that
our throwaway items should not be produced at the expense of the basics that birds and animals need for survival – their homes and their food. And let’s not forget that the air we all breathe is dependent upon trees. Sooner or later, we will all need to face up to the fact that the environment is not some subjective idea, some objective concept, some external entity. It’s the ground we step on, the water we drink, the air we breathe.
Anything that we can do today to reverse wrong choices from our past misconceptions about a planet of limitless resources buys us time. And that comes down to how each of us live daily life and how we spend our dollar.
I’m going to tag just one person to pass this meem on. The talented and friendly Joe Dolson runs The Conscientous Home apart from his work as a Usability expert. I’d like to hear what Joe has to say about all this, with his strong interest in taking care of the planet.