|Books Bad. Libraries Good.||June 3, 2005|
I’ve got a bone to pick with the paper industry. On a personal level, it’s my husband’s career; he took a job in the Potlatch toilet paper plant instead of going to law school. But that’s a separate issue.
Paper pollution once included the deadly PCBs that will continue to contaminate our precious water supply for another century. Nowadays, deadly toxins produced by the manufacture of paper include toxic solvents used to break down pulp, chlorine compounds that bleach the paper, and mercury based biocides that prevent bacterial growth.
Paper mills are tremendous sources of dangerous green house gasses like carbon dioxides, acid rain factors like nitrous oxide, poisons like carbon monoxide and airborne mercury and arsenic, and respiratory irritants like sulfur dioxide, which smells perfectly awful.
Paper mills also consume immense amounts of water, diminishing the amount of water available to the communities where they operate. This increases the price of water paid by the working class communities that surround paper mills. There are never upscale neighborhoods next to a paper mill.
Large industries are the Gadianton Robbers of our day, and the paper industry is no exception. While working class people toil endlessly to make their way, the paper industry gets special privileges from nearly every level of government. For nearly a century, the paper industry has made its money with the help of tax breaks, subsidized energy, subsidized water, and environmental loopholes.
Recycling is not the solution. Paper fibers wear out, and they just can’t be recycled indefinitely. Thus, paper fibers remain a leading type of solid waste filling our landfills. Ink, dye, clay coating on glossy paper, and pigments are washed off of paper during the recycling process and dried into a sludge that also creates an enormous amount of solid waste.
We are purchasing and disposing of more paper than ever. Giant bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble sell more and more books while library usage continues to drop. Before the “paperless office,” memos were sent in a chain around an office. Now electronic documents are distributed, and everyone prints their own copy. Something has got to give.
Thanks to my husband’s career, all of this puts food on our table. I struggle with this every day. I can understand why conservatives don’t care about this. But even the most ardent environmentalists don’t think twice about the books that they buy or how much toilet paper they use.
The scriptures tell us that we need to protect our environment and use our resources wisely, as Rusty pointed out so well on Nine Moons.
Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. (D&C 104:13)
When I was a child, my parents took me to the library every weekend. We were reasonably affluent, but neither my friends nor I owned more than 10 or 15 children’s books. My acquaintances now have bookshelves filled with children’s books, but they’ve never spent a moment with their children in a library. This is the consumer economy at its worst.
And this issue with books raises a larger issue. In a world where many non-Mormon families watch television, talk on the phone, or browse the internet in their own rooms, going to the library is not just a matter of saving our environment. It’s also a matter of spending time with our families. Just as Mormon’s are less likely to give their children their own television, phone, or computer, shouldn’t we regularly take our kids to the library? Isn’t buying fewer books and spending more time at a library something that we can all agree on? Why do we need to buy so many books? Shouldn’t libraries especially be a shoe-in for Mormons because it’s family time they don’t have to pay for?