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 by Jon Burras
2016 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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The Save a Tree and Go Paperless Myth
        You might have lived your life with unbridled enthusiasm for environmental issues and social justice campaigns. You are the first to support a cause and often recruit friends and family onboard to cheer on your mission. Everyone looks at you as a warrior/activist and you feel immensely proud of your actions. Over the course of your activist life you have been involved in many campaigns and have rallied for many factions.
        Unfortunately, many who speed off into politically correct marches and campaigns do so with an abundance of enthusiasm but very little forward thinking. Their zeal and energy might drive them while their rational thought and their down-line analysis remains stunted. Many of today's protests and campaigns run only on emotional momentum with very little substance to back them up. Such is the case of the recent campaign to "save trees by going paperless" initiative. While often well-intentioned, most of the people who participate in this endeavor have not thought through clearly the consequences of their actions and have very little facts to back up their strong idealism. 
        Several years ago a campaign started that anointed technology as the great savior for our world and our environment. The concept arose that if we could switch our lives over from a physical and analog world into a pure digital world that we would be light years ahead in our evolution. This revolutionary idea swept through our world and has permeated nearly every aspect of our lives, from travel reservations to banking and from communication to business. The idea that technology will save us has been the backbone of this idea.
        The "go paperless campaign" relies heavily on the emotional and pseudo-spiritual shaming of anyone caught cutting down a tree or using lumber or paper products. It is commonly believed that those living in a digital life are somewhat more aware and more connected to the Earth. Guilt and shaming are common bullying strategies used to stop people from using paper and wood products. The killing of a tree is often equated with animal rights activists protesting against mink coats or Greenpeace protesting against Japanese whaling fleets killing whales so that patrons in Japanese sushi restaurants can enjoy eating fine whale meat.
        How well is that working out? Most would agree that it is not working out very well. The digital age has eroded much of our lives and brought us to the edge of near-extinction level events. Hackers are stealing credit cards at record levels, along with government records and secrets, corporate files and communications as well as the vital information and identities of the ordinary citizen. Endless waves of passwords, encrypted files, government countermeasures, off site and remote back up systems have not rescued the misguided technology revolution. The famous "I-Cloud" system is not even safe and secure. Businesses, corporations and nations are standing on a fragile edge just waiting for the next cyber attack. Government military plans have been stolen by rogue hackers. How long will it be before a cyber attack sets off a nuclear weapon, destroys a dam or wipes out an entire electrical power grid?
        The same can be said about the "save a tree and go paperless" campaign. Converting our entire society to a digital structure is a very ill-conceived endeavor. Going paperless is just one more layer of this movement to live in a digital age. This campaign is very misguided, based on little facts and is actually very harmful to our society.
        Here are the facts. The United States has a very well-managed forestry system. Most trees harvested these days do not come from ancient old-growth forests but are planted for the sole purpose of harvesting them to be used in paper products, lumber and other wood-based commodities. The United States has a system in place that for every one tree cut down another two trees are planted. In the northern part of the country from Minnesota all the way to Maine there has been a 28% increase in the forest in the last fifty years. In fact, U.S. forestland across the country in the last fifty years has increased by 49% in spite of a thriving logging industry. We have an abundance of renewable wood resources for our paper and lumber products. This is unlike some other regions of the world where cutting down trees is occurring much faster than any replanting of those trees.
        Lumber is a renewable product when the forests are well managed like in the United States. Imagine if farmers planted food crops but were not allowed to sell those products to people to eat. A sustainable forest system is not unlike an organic farm where the product renews itself each year.
        The save a tree campaign and go paperless was most likely started by large corporations masquerading as grass-roots movements. Every time you go digital and stop putting your records on real paper or making a digital bank deposit instead of writing a check you are putting someone out of work. People are paid to grow trees, harvest trees, transport trees to mills, create lumber and paper products, market and sell those products, print and design paper goods, open envelopes and make paper check deposits. Unknowingly you are putting people out of work in an up line that is many layers removed. The digital economy is no different than self-scanning checkout lines in super markets and robots in factories. The digital economy and go paperless idealism is a way for corporations to eliminate jobs.
        Many people are becomingly overly suspicious of the go paperless campaign and are beginning to see the true motivation behind this cause. In one survey from Twosidesna.org nearly 80% of those questioned were skeptical about the real reason that corporations were encouraging their customers and employees to go paperless. Most felt that there was some ulterior motive in play.
        A digital economy has created a surge in the need for electricity to power all of those laptops, desktops, cell phones, ATM machines, tablets and gadgets. Most of the electricity produced in the United States (84%) still comes from fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas). By participating in a digital economy with all of your electrical devices you are actually making the environment even worse as the demand for electricity has skyrocketed. Look no further than how many devices you currently have plugged into your home or office wall outlets and you will discover that most likely you do not have enough electrical plugs to handle it all.
        As global warming looms over us from hydro-carbons blasted into the air by cars, factories and power plants, the use of your computer or cell phone has only added more strain on the environment, much more than by harvesting renewable trees. Up to 600 square miles in West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina have been deforested and stripped clean in order to harvest the coal used to burn in many of the nation's power plants. This deforestation of land is in order to provide for you the power to charge your cell phone and lap top computer. Electrical consumption is far more damaging to the environment than harvesting renewable trees.
        In addition, there is a vast amount of resources now required to build those electrical gadgets. Precious metals like gold, copper, cobalt, lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury must be dug from the Earth, often in remote and fragile ecosystems on the planet. Lithium ion battery factories are needed in record numbers to supply much of our vast battery needs. These factories require enormous resources and power to operate them. You are creating far more damage to the Earth in constructing a computer or cell phone than harvesting renewable trees.
        Paper products made from trees are not going to waste. In 2015 the United States recycled about sixty-seven percent of all paper and reused this natural material to produce other products. This recycled paper was reconstituted into products like paper towels, newsprint and computer paper. In addition, the remaining paper that is not recycled might end up in a land fill and as it breaks down it will create methane gas that is captured and used as a fuel. Nature does not waste anything and has its own recycling program. Thousands of jobs are at stake and those jobs would disappear if we were not using paper products. More than 450,000 jobs are produced in the entire recycling industry (paper, electronics, glass, plastic etc.).
        In today's age with a plethora of media sources, from mainstream media to social media, we are bombarded by many false narratives that gain momentum without any real facts or substance behind them. Is it not time to dismantle the go paperless and save a tree campaign? Should we not examine this notion that going digital is actual benefitting us?
       Make sure that you say hello to your postal delivery person each day because he may lose his job soon because there are not enough paper letters and envelopes to deliver. Sit down and write an actual letter to someone, place a stamp on it and put in it the mail box. Pay your bills with a real check and envelope rather than an e-bill account. Do your own homework and research before you allow your emotions to lead you down an errant path. Question the true intent of corporations. If you work in the mail room or in the marketing department it might be your job that the company is trying to get rid of by going paperless. 
        The save a tree and go paperless campaign might seem warm and fuzzy but it is very misguided and as many people suspect, a secretive collusion by corporations to eliminate jobs. Energy consumption is reaching critical output each year in large part due to a digital economy. If you really want to help the environment then limit your use of technology and use more paper products. Land is being clear-cut and the trees removed in this country to harvest the coal, oil and natural gas beneath it to produce electricity so that you can check your social media account every ten minutes. After all, it might be your job that is cut next and after your cell phone's battery fails renewable and recyclable trees will still be growing strong.