Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Happened To The Paper Shortage?

I take in too many newspapers, in order not to be left behind on something. The result is that I have difficulty getting them all ready for garbage day. Very little is real news, and not much is original opinion about what news there is; in fact, most of the "opinions" are very predictable, correlated to whatever newspaper is printing them. The majority of the paper surface seems to be advertising, including numerous full-pages sprawls that are so image-oriented one has to guess what is being sold. One thing is sure: it makes foolishness of all the fuss some years back about a paper shortage, and the accompanying urgings to recycle, or just to use less. Maybe you understand how this shortage became a surplus, but I sure don't.

Paper is a commodity, and demand brings supply, which can, I understand, lead to surplus (unless there's a shortage, right?). Another commodity is oil, which seems perpetually threatened with extinction, if you listen to the right voices. The resulting price fluctuations have the potential to change our way of life, and to determine whether the U.S. will be the top dog, or will it be Russia? Between these two, oil and paper, there is a drastic difference in that no more oil is being produced, as it requires many millions of years of geological activity, while trees for paper are growing all the time, assuming we don't cut them down all at once.

Surpluses and shortages bring us to the economics of the market system. This is just as interesting as any topic of the day. "Free" enterprise apparently includes the freedom to squash competitors and create a monopoly -- which of course your competitors were "free" to do as well -- paying off politicians in the process, if that helps. Whatever it was all about, the "paper shortage" was interesting, and, I must say, had some lasting effects. My wife still makes sure all the toilet paper rolls end up in the right bin.

33 Comments:

At 12:58 AM, Blogger mandora said...

Wonderful blog, fantastic thoughts - thanks for sharing them. I'm glad I stumbled upon it.

 
At 1:36 AM, Blogger Donald Crowdis said...

Thanks, Manda. I'm always glad to have new readers.

Don

 
At 5:28 AM, Blogger Keith said...

They are telling us here in Britain to save fuel, oil in particular, and not to make unnecessary trips etc.

About a mile from me is a big motor racing circuit where EVERY day from dawn til dusk people are "practising" with gas guzzling racing-cars and high power motor cycles. Where is the sense in that?

Sometimes the noise pollution and stench of the burnt fuel is overpowering when the wind is in my direction.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

You might be interested in "The Deep Hot Biosphere" by Thomas Gold. In a nutshell, Gold proposes that oil is abiotic in origin -- i.e., it ain't squished dinosaurs. Rather, oil is a byproduct of the life-cycle of thermophilic bacteria living deep in the Earth's mantle. The interesting connotation here is there is no oil shortage -- it's being produced, slowly, all the time.

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Cefeida said...

Paper shortage or none, it doesn't help the landfill. The presence of ample supplies doesn't justify wastefulness; my concern, when I recycle (or attempt to, anyway) are the growing mountains of rubbish that inevitably end up in someone's back yard. We've all seen it small-scale in a roadside ditch or another. Even if we're in no danger of running out of paper or oil, I'd like to see us believe in being frugal. Large amounts of human beings take a large amount of time to make or break a habit...by the time we get used to knowing there is no paper shortage, we might have caused one...

Scary, big world.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger MyMaracas said...

Hello,

Love your blog! I came in from a BoingBoing link.

Here in my town in Indiana, we started mandatory recylcing to save landfill space. It worked so well that the landfill wasn't making enough money anymore.... So we started importing garbage from out of state. Plus, it's illegal to salvage/recycle items others have put out with their trash. Go figure.

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard a developer in the oil industry say that oil is produced by inorganic means. That being said, I need to note that he is also a Chrisitian funamentalist.

 
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At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Really amazing articles here. I found it (through Boingboing) and couldn't stop reading until I read it all. I'll be sure to be back.

 
At 2:43 PM, Anonymous K. Jinks said...

well with current stem cell research we could grow cultures of our very own muscle tissue and consume that, as that would be an even more nutritious for us.

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donald, I too used to be overrun with old newpapers untill I began reading news on the web - presto, no more paper. What on earth would make you say no more oil is being produced??? The earth processes certainly haven't stopped, so why wouldn't oil still be being created as it always has. Its just a question of whether we are using it up faster than it is being produced. If so an shortage and eventual run out are inevitable. But MAYBE more is being created faster than we are using it and the PRICE is all artificially held up by greedy oil producing entities.

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous htimsmk said...

I hate to wonder about matters of facts when the simple truth is that we don't have the facts on hand about running out of oil - or paper shortages or such - it all depends on who (whom?) one believes... anyway, not to rant about all of that. I like the advertising - it's a modern art form - I have worked in graphics all of my life. I like the take it or leave it aspect of print media. You can easily avoid it - it is by far the least intrusive form of advertising, at least when compared to phone solicitation or email spam. - Even TV ads are more intrusive, but also can be an art form in themselves. Check out the Red Stripe ads on YouTube if you have any doubt! The photography and art and production and thought put into print media have all the means to convey all the love and passion and effort put into all the other more respected art forms. As far as the environment has anyone thought as I have, about the fact that the earth has been through all sorts of iterations toxic to humans in various periods and that all the save the earth bandwagons are more realistically save the earth for humans?

 
At 12:52 AM, Anonymous matriarch of X-Works Gaming said...

Hi, just found you by accident. If you ever get to Illinois, I could make sure it was fun!

 
At 12:54 AM, Anonymous matriarch said...

what is boingboing, and where does it origionate? Seems lots of your comments come from there!!

 
At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have stumbled on the blog from boingboing, Great insight and advice Don (if I may call you Don) I've enjoyed reading and will continue to do so.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Donald Crowdis said...

Thanks to BoingBoing, all these great readers have come my way. For those who aren't sure what BoingBoing is, it's a Web site that posts interesting (and often quirky) news stories.

http://boingboing.net/

 
At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

I'm sure you are enjoying all this BoingBoing interest, well earned.

There is a great episode of Penn & Teller's Bullsh!t that discusses the state of recycling and the reality of paper production. It's available on Google Video here:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7734998370503499886

 
At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They couldn't build paper mills fast enough in Asia, so Asia bidded up the price of paper in the West, but eventually there were enough mills--plus the Net cut classified advertising on hardcopy by a third in just a few years.

 
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