Like electricity, many of us who use paper and in so many ways constantly reap its benefits could hardly think of not having it. Paper is mostly derived from renewable timber, an arguably green resource. But in Mountain Whispers, circa 2050, paper has become a prized rarity. Why?
Well, for starters, let’s delve into the basic history and refinement of this marvelous substance.
Origins of Paper
Apart from stone and clay tablets, the Egyptian papyrus plant was the first widely used material for writing. Hence the word “paper.” Manufacturing was simple though limited by the availability of plants and its fragility in non-arid climates. Paper production resembling what we have today was invented in China around 105 AD. Its use expanded into Japan, Korea, and throughout the region. Marco Polo wrote about it in his travels. As it spread to the west, different materials, such as recycled rags, were used in the manufacture (“rag content” persists to this day in some higher quality papers).
Technological advances have produced a vast array of paper types, qualities, and subsequent uses. Apart from the raw materials, a lot of energy input, water, and chemical processing is required to render paper as we use it these days. Even recycled paper is energy dependent on transport, bundling, converting to malleable ingredients, and processing to completion.
Uses of Paper
We use paper for communications, packaging, storage, sanitation, construction, furniture, materials processing, monetary exchange, and (did I mention sanitation?). We see it in all major sectors of modern society: business, transportation, domestic products, healthcare, agriculture, home building, entertainment, and virtually all aspects of our day to day.
Most of us rarely stop to consider what life would be like with limited access to paper due to high cost and tight supply. But how could that ever happen?
The Green Perspective
Using the same logic as eco-activists apply to other carbon-laden offenders, why shouldn’t consumers of paper be forced to “pay the real price” ? Think about this the next time you discover there’s no TP in the toilet stall dispenser. You’d probably pay a quarter or two for a few sheets dispensed from a vending dispenser, right?
And yes, just as there are special interests who would deign the world do without fossil fuels, many of those same activists are all for scrapping the free-flowing abundance of paper. To confirm these paper decriers exist, try searching “Environmental Impact of Paper”.
At this juncture, please understand, paper production could use some tweaking, just as every other industry could stand improvement. I’ve lived several mountain valleys west of a large mill and on certain mornings, you could smell it from 40 miles away. So, we’re not talking free rein for the industry, some boundaries are needed, but not to the point of companies shutting down due to onerous regulations like those put upon coal-fired energy producers.
So, we back into the future of Mountain Whispers. The premise is that the green global powers-that-be have put the squeeze on all industrial products deemed “wasteful”, “unsustainable”, “polluting”, and “too cheap”. On their list of industrial global polluters, paper ranks high in the industrial sector which is the third largest CO2 emitter-just below the air transportation industry. If it’s assumed the Green Order has won everything for which they’ve clamored, then rampant paper production would naturally be an item they would regulate.
In this future era, why would we use paper when we have cheap little “pocket desks” and “digi-scribers” to send and receive messages and enter transactions? Besides, these little devices are so easy to use and keep track of for the sake of the citizens’ own safety and security.
As for basic needs, there are billions of people who lived prior to this “paper revolution” and many yet today use traditional methods of toileting. So, in the parlance of royalty, the high officials may say, “Let them do as our global neighbors have done for generations, and use their left hand!” Of course, cloth diapers would be prescribed in favor of public landfill enemy #1–the disposable diaper. And, as with every elitist establishment, what’s forbade to the masses is luxuriously appointed to those at the top. Comrades like Khrushchev, Gorbachov or Putin likely never stood in line for toilet paper or had their wives queued up for Pampers around the block.
Days without Sun (or Paper)
The hulking form of green eco-fundamentalism casts a very dark shadow into the future. Unless we stand up and speak out, our modern way of life and many of the blessings endowed to us, such as the abundantly useful forms of paper, will be diminished by decree. Ultimately, it’s all connected to our energy production.
The higher cost of energy drives higher costs for everything. Everything, including the ubiquitous items we use every day. Add to that, any green vendetta aimed at a particularly “unsustainable” industry then we can readily see where the story goes. In the future as portrayed in Mountain Whispers, paper is expensive and, for the lowly citizens, a precious little remains available.