Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Angels & Demons”

The Morning After 2 … Seriously

Now I realize I was being flippant yesterday and was likely to incur the wrath of e-book zealots. I would apologize, but I simply enjoyed writing the blog entry far too much, so I will settle for a passionate (and genuine) plea to embrace the e-book revolution.

When it comes down to it, the argument is all about e-books .v. tree books. I thought it would be a simple argument. Deforestation is one of the biggest factors in Global Warming, no? It seems that much of the debate centers around a study produced by the very credible Cleantech Group. They focus on the Kindle, though they admit that they possess little knowledge in the carbon footprint of the production and maintenance for the Kindle or the Whispernet technology that sends e-books effortlessly through the air straight to your kindle or computer.

I kind of got lost with the scientific and environmental jargon, but as I understand it, e-readers could have a major impact on improving the sustainability and environmental impact on the publishing industry, one of the world’s most polluting sectors. In 2008, the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees, not to mention the waste-water produced or other factors such as storage and transportation.

The report, authored by Emma Ritch,suggests that the carbon emitted in the life-cycle of a Kindle is more or less offset after the first year of use. She writes that “any additional years of use result in net carbon savings, equivalent to an average of 168 kg of CO2 per year (the emissions produced in the manufacture and distribution of 22.5 books).”But even before we get involved in the intricacies of carbon footprint measurement, we have to be comfortable with the huge amount of trees cut down, the energy put into printing and packaging the books and then their distribution and storage.  

If you can deal with that, consider this from an industry insider: ABOUT 40% OF ALL BOOKS PUBLISHED ARE EVENTUALLY PULPED. Tens of thousands of copies of Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom were pulped because of errors. Dan Bown’s Angels & Demons reputedly published 6 million copies for it’s first run with 2 million being sold in the first week. And the rest? Here is another article on the mass pulping of books.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t even come down to carbon footprints.

Enjoy your e-reader, knowing you are part of a movement to save the planet – the only one we know that has chocolate on it (sustainably fair trade grown chocolate,  of course!).

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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