Dr. Seuss published his celebrated book, The Lorax, in 1971. The animated movie debuted with much fanfare just weeks ago, and although I didn’t see it, the publicity inspired me to pull my copy of The Lorax down from the shelf and reread it. You may remember the moral of the story: it’s to recognize the value of things in time to prevent their extinction. In The Lorax, that thing is the forest of vibrantly-colored, fluffy and fantastical Trufulla Trees.
If you’ve read any of our posts, you know that we are against mindless waste of resources — the kind that decimates the Trufulla forest to make thneeds.
The Lorax came immediately to mind as we read about America’s growing export business in disposable chopsticks. Disposable being the word that gives us pause. Georgia Chopsticks, of Americus, Georgia, currently produces 80 million pairs of chopsticks per month, all of which go to China.
“Apparently, there’s a huge demand worldwide for chopsticks,” said Americus Mayor Barry Blount, noting that the disposable nature of the products keeps the demand strong. “You and I use a fork and put it in the dishwasher, but I guess if you use chopsticks one time, you dispose of them.”
And apparently Georgia Chopsticks has big plans for growth:
The demand is so strong that [founder] Lee plans to add five more factories, and may expand beyond Georgia. Lee said he’s considering other states that are rich in lumber, such as neighboring Florida or Alabama. Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan and Oregon are also possibilities.
And why is there such a great export market for chopsticks? Because China no longer has enough wood to make disposable chopsticks.
In an age when trees should be appreciated for cleaning up pollutants, for taking in CO2 and producing oxygen, for providing habitat and supporting eco-systems, not to mention offering shade to a warming Earth, what are we to make of this business model? Parts of the U.S. are still blessed with trees, but global climate change and accompanying drought are wreaking havoc on our forests.
Should we be chopping our trees down as fast as possible to provide cheap disposable chopsticks to China? We know what the Lorax would say.