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Crazy for paper

OVER THE LAST couple of years, I have been machinating on how to answer an environmentalist leader who told me that lowering paper consumption is good for society. In the case of violence, war or poverty, less is more, but in the case of paper. like with sex, less is definitely less.
To start with, one of my first images as a young student is of sitting in a freezing classroom with the only heat coming from a sawdust heater, in front of which my teacher, was drying his wet, snot laden cotton handkerchief. It looked perfectly normal to me then, but now every time I buy tissue paper I see the face of my old instructor.
I know this is an extreme and dated case but let me give you another example so that you can understand what I am saying. I am in Cuba and the country is going through what they called "the special period" resulting from the fall of the USSR. I am vis­iting a modern corrugating plant gifted to the nation by France, without one gram of paper. Since the country does not have money to buy paper in Canada, which is where I work, they can­not make the boxes used to package the export grade orange crop. In the meantime, the oranges fall and rot. They suggest we exchange oranges for paper. but my company wants dollars, even if they are Canadian dollars, which are still pretty good. Kafka at work you ask? No, simply a typical example of a coun­try with low consumption of paper.

To complete my list of the absurd, let me tell you that just five years ago, there was a country whose paper consumption dropped by half almost overnight. My environmentalist friend would be surprised because no Argentine would have said that his or her standard of living increased after the debacle.

And as you may be thinking by now, I am against the pseu­do-progressive idea that consuming paper is against our health, our environment and our forests. For me, using less paper means having fewer computers, fewer hospitals, less medicine, and above all, less culture. Our lives are connected to paper from beginning to end, from the time we get up to the time we fall asleep.

My madness for paper has a true foundation. Yes, you do need it to transport oranges, to package cookies or milk, to pub­lish Don Quixote or Playboy and even to produce this magazine you are now reading. The phone company uses paper to send

you a bill (ok, maybe that's not so good ... ). Paper has the virtue, of being sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable. If that isn't enough for our society, recycling paper also avoids the premature filling of our garbage sites. Its manufacture generates thousands of jobs that can never be outsourced to other coun­tries. Paper is one of the few growing industries in Spain. Is there another'!

In my opinion, saying that logging is bad is simply equiva­lent to saying that harvesting cabbages is brutal or even that the stars are stuck to this giant set of glass balls of which earth is the center.

In reality, logging generates the imperative to have, look after. and sustain forests. Wood, besides being the base product for paper, is solid CO2, This magazine you are reading, was carbon dioxide that came from burning oil or other combustible materi­al. A single seed, water, light and a few years did the rest. If we would fill every available space with trees, we would actually lower the concentration of greenhouse gases. What we must do is not avoid logging but increase tree planting tenfold. The more paper you have on your desk, the less CO2 will be in the atmosphere.
Paper is recyclable without limits. Every gram of paper placed in the blue containers is recycled into new paper. In Spain, there are mills that produce new paper and board from recovered paper that has been collected just 48 hour before. Other mills take longer but the fact is that in our country.  85% of the paper produced is recycled paper, the highest level in the EU. In fact, Spain must import over half a million tones of recovered paper from France, Portugal and the UK because we citizens still throwaway too much paper.|
Paper is a safe and permanent support of ideas. what would you, dear reader do if the words in my article started a rebellion against paper and launched a private army? My article would become an alphabet soup that may even be able to feed the body but not the mind.

I bless paper. Without it, the world would be poorer, more sinister and enslaved. Paper does not give us freedom but it makes us freer.
November 2007     



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