The tree was born from a seedling on a tree farm in 1982. Along with it’s neighbors, planted not in the old way, a straight row, but in a more naturalistic meandering way that helped give shelter to birds and small animals. The tree grew along with its kind in a quiet meditative existence, breathing in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Several generations of birds nested in its bows, squirrels scampered over its limbs collecting seeds, mice lived among it’s roots. For a time, a gathering of hair clung to some sap from the tree—hair left by a bear that thought its bark would be particularly suited to scratching a itch. Th
e tree stretched toward the sun, adding about two feet to it’s height every year. It was a good existence. A satisfying one.
And then one day a horrific sound was heard that grew louder and louder. The sound was a cacophony of cracking wood, crashing trunks, diesel engine roar, and the loud buzz of giant saws. The sound grew close and closer still and the tree received chemicals from other trees around it, a voice if you will, of fear and terror coming from it’s neighbors. And then the saw found it. Cut down, the tree fell with a thundering crackle and crash as it fell to forest floor.
But the tree didn’t die just yet. With moisture in its cells, it continued to live even as its limbs were cut off. And when they were, the tree lost its breath. Its stored carbon was released into the world. The tree was then hauled off to the mill. There its main mass was but into planks measuring about 1¾” x 3¾”. The sawdust and extra wood was gathered, bathed in chemicals and glue, and pressed into boards, further remains of the tree were pulped, bleached and bathed in more chemicals before finally being pressed into paper. The paper was then imprinted with permanent ink, cut and bound, and along with other books shipped to bookstores across the nation. Thousands of trees making tens of thousands of books.
Someone asked me why I don’t read hardcopy books anymore. Mainly, it’s because I read a lot of books and when the Kindle came along I realized I didn’t need a whole room full of bookshelves (I was had seven bookcases). But I also think about that symbolic tree. Of course, you can argue that my Kindle has its own environmental cost. It does. The petrochemicals, the cheap labor, the toxic metals that go into batteries… But I’ve had my Kindle for six years (since the first Paperwhite came out) and will likely have it for six more years, or until its rechargeable battery gives out. I’ve read well over a thousand books on the thing, saving, I believe, at least one tree. One tree that can go on scrubbing carbon from the air and give a home to a diverse array of forest creatures.