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In thinking about some students’ reactions to things I have commented on in past classes, I thought it would helpful to pose a simple thought question to you. You need not answer it unless a small voice in the back of your mind is telling you to.

The argument: it is not clear a priori that recycling paper “saves trees” if that happens to be the objective of paper recycling (there are other objectives such as reducing landfill space, reducing emissions of CO2, and so forth). To understand why, ask yourself whether or not we would get more new iPods if we recycled the existing ones in circulation. Therefore, government mandates to recycle paper should properly be met with a degree of skepticism, and little green e-mail signatures urging me not to print e-mails seem a bit sanctimonious in their proclamations in my inbox.

The question: Because it is very likely that recycling paper does not save trees, in fact it is probable that it reduces the amount of trees than would otherwise have prevailed, does that mean you should make it your mission to print any and everything you possibly can … and to throw it all into the regular trash? Is that what I am advocating when I question the wisdom of paper recycling programs?

Two things will help you reflect on it:

(1) Because I know rent-control is a really bad way to help the poor find housing, does that mean I am advocating for the poor to live in appliance boxes and starve to death?

(2) Do you know why throwing rocks through windows is not good for the local economy?

4 Responses to “Print This Post!”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Two of my pet-peeves are the ‘slow food’ and ‘eat local’ movements.

  2. Michael says:

    The argument I come across a lot is that a bunch of trees is not a forest. They state that the trees that are replanted after cutting down an area are too close together and not diverse enough.
    I hear a lot about sustainable forestry, but not familiar all the pros and cons.

  3. Econobran says:

    If you want to save trees (or forests), I think the best way to go about it would be to buy land with a forest.

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