Advancing a Free Society

Please Print this Post for Earth Day

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I am being bombarded with emails this week about ways to avoid insulting Mother Nature on Earth Day. The “do not do list” includes: take a hot shower, flush too often, shop without an organic cotton tote bag, and the most common request—“please don’t print this email.” The World Wildlife Fund has taken this to a whole new level by disabling viewers from printing some of their material. And now you can even download WWF software for free from SaveAsWWF.com if you would like the power to restrict people from printing.

But is this bold move actually protecting the environment? What many folks don't realize, write Chuck Leavell and Carlton Owen in the Wall Street Journal, is that a ban on printing paper may actually accelerate the conversion of forests to other uses such as strip malls and parking lots—“the nation's forest landowners can't keep growing trees without markets for this natural, organic and renewable product.”

Leavell's email tagline reads:

It's OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.

Leavell knows a few things about forestry. In addition to being a highly admired pianist who plays rock and roll with the Rolling Stones, he is a prominent forester. Mick Jagger claims, "Chuck is always talking about trees on tour . . . sometimes it drives me crazy!"

Chuck and his wife Rose Lane Leavell entered forestry in 1981 when Rose inherited a family plantation in Georgia. Rather than row crops, they decided to grow trees. Today, the property is known for wildlife conservation and award winning natural resources management. “Chuck Leavell is a model of private stewardship of the kind beloved by free-market environmentalists of all stripes,” writes G. Tracy Mehan in PERC Reports.

The point is, be leery of green action items. Although this type of campaign generates feel good actions, the action is not always connected to long-term positive environmental outcomes—meaning you might get a spanking from Mother Nature.

(photo credit: Tom Langston)