Recently, Tim Boyle commented
on one of my posts with a good-hearted passionate rant bemoaning the wonton wasteful tradition of christmas trees.
After some discussion and research we discovered that the environmental, cultural, and economic impacts of the christmas tree industry are unexpectedly tangled, with potentially an overall benefit to the environment. Keep an eye on Tim's blog
as he may post a more comprehensive report of his findings.
This reminds me of a talk I attended a couple months ago by a researcher who partnered with major magazines to figure out where all their physical manufacturing materials come from and where they ultimately end up. This was the first literal translation of following a product from cradle to grave that I have come across. It was pretty interesting but left a lot questions, which I think could be answered by economists, paper making specialists, or psychologists.
For example, much of the wood for the paper was coming from great distances instead of using local wood. They use this wood because it is somehow cheaper, despite the transportation costs (perhaps an economist could explain this is due to international taxes or something, or a paper making expert might explain that the trees from the far location are superior paper pulp producers). He also discovered that the companies print and send an excess percentage (15% ? ) of magazines to vendors which never sell and end up in the waste stream (would a psychologist tell us that a larger stack of magazines makes them more desirable and more likely that someone will buy one?).
So, just like our discovery with the christmas trees the magazine biz is a wadded-up ball of economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits.
I think this means that there is benefit in being humble, observant, and flexible in forming our judgements and beliefs about life. I especially identify with this as an environmentalist. So frequently things are cast in black and white creating good and bad people, animals, products, businesses, or organizations. As a naturalist I was asked about almost everything, "is this good or bad?" when really the answer was neither and both.