Paper Moon

by Don Boudreaux on February 27, 2009

in Environment

That the modern environmental movement is infected with a huge dollop of puritanism — with a large number of persons who itch to force others to live lives more spartan and less enjoyable — needs no further proof than this "report" appearing on the front-page of yesterday's New York Times.

It's ironic, is it not, that this report appears in a newspaper?

Here's the letter that I sent earlier today to the New York Times.

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Kevin February 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm

While this particular story appears to me mostly "news" (its newsworthiness or lack thereof being another question), the NYT has for years conflated reporting with opinion, so this is no surprise.

All that aside, I find the environmental overreach here amusing. It is conceivable that the public actually cares about CO2, but the use of forests (an eminently renewable resource)? Chlorine? Water? Wow talk about not knowing your customer.

Or maybe the NYT is printing the story as a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek subversion piece about the effects of these people's ideologies on the average American's anus. Feeling chafed Leslie?

Bob D February 27, 2009 at 1:56 pm

While I don't buy the argument that we can control the earth's warming and cooling trends, I do strongly believe in trying to be a good individual steward of our planet. That is why I have been using 100% recycled paper products, if I can get them at the same or similar price, for a long time with little or no perceived difference. You can get them at Trader Joe's and most stores where home paper products are sold. I don't think that this is inconsistent with Libertarian or Austrian School ideals. I would if I was forced to do so, but my voluntary action has the reaction of closing landfills run and or regulated by Government entities and reduction in that is a great thing! Am I in the wrong? Aren't we using resources most economically if we use them twice as long as it's not a more expensive process as stated by the Marcal in the article!

indiana jim February 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Similarly, Sherl Crow, I recall, had a brainstorm to save the planet by arguing that everyone should use only ONE sheet of toilet paper per sh*t. The best thing that I've ever heard out of Rosie O'Donnell was her response: she may be able to do that, but I can't; "have you seen my ass?", she said

mark February 27, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I'm using paper as if it grew on trees!

Butt-seriously, folks: who here would really want to give up their old-growth Charmin?

Pingry February 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Not to be crude or anything, but we can't even wipe our asses these days without other people getting involved!

If scoundrel politicians could find a way to pay certain special interest groups to wipe their asses while spreading the cost among millions of unorganized, uninformed taxpayers they would!

Pingry February 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Well, if they won't let us have our toilet paper, then we'll just use the New York Times….they're going out of business soon

MWG February 27, 2009 at 4:05 pm

"I'm using paper as if it grew on trees!"

"Damn Mark, you beat me to it. I was gonna say, "What? You think this toilet paper grows on trees?"

On another note, I tend to be a little skeptical when enviros talk about tree cutting (here in the US anyway). To me it sounds like arguing against eating beef because we're "running out of cows". Being raised in WA state I lived a couple hours away from MASSIVE tree farms owned by Weyerhaeuser.

I'd be interested to know whether or not the US has increased the number of trees b/c of companies like Weyerhaeuser over the past… say 25 years.

Mezzanine February 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Typical conservatives, selfish assholes who don't care how they trash the planet.

Methinks February 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Not to be crude or anything, but we can't even wipe our asses these days without other people getting involved!

Thanks for my first belly laugh today, Pingry.

Paris February 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Methinks -

I would really like to get in touch with you offline – your "gulag" post the other day was just brilliant, as are many of your other posts. My email is pylorus / at / gmail.


Perry Eidelbus February 27, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Thanks for the troll, Mezzanine. Perhaps you can apply some of the subject at hand to the falsehoods coming out of your mouth?

And FYI, it's because of capitalism that you don't work in fields and forests, watching your step lest you step in feces. That is the kind of "natural" world you'd otherwise live in.

The article is a great example of journalistic hyperbole. It mentions "some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada."

"Some percentage" meaning what? Point zero zero zero zero zero one percent? That falls under "some."

"Rare" is tossed about as if it means the noun must be preserved at all costs, the same way politicians tout their "bold action" as if "bold" somehow justifies whatever they propose.

MnM February 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I think Mezz is parodying some of the other trolls here…

Superheater February 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Can we be blunt here? We all experience times when soft is NECESSARY. Even when we find ourselves in perfect working order "down there", its fair to say most of us KNOW that is not an area of the body that takes kindly to be abraded by enviromentally approved TP.

CS Lewis observed that when people stop believing in SOMETHING, they don't believe in NOTHING, they'll be believe in anything-theocracy may not be fun, but geocracy is worse!

Methinks February 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Paris. I'm humbled by Russ's choice to pick up my comment and say such nice things about it. Although, I wasn't the only one who made those same points on that thread.

The Albatross February 27, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Actually most TP comes from pines–they grow faster (mainly on tree farms). Old growth is better suited for building materials, and recycled paper is best for boxes and packaging. But we can't let things like facts get in the way of some good old eco-fascism.
BTW I am addicted to the triple ply and it will be pulled from my dead cold corn shute.

Methinks February 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm

My nether regions have still not recovered from the assault of the grizzly toilet paper we were using in Russia before we came here and I've been here since 1976! I still remember my first encounter with American toilet paper. Fight people! You don't know what you have 'til you're wiping with The National Enquirer…I mean NYT.

Bob D February 27, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Just in case I surprised anyone by backing voluntary Eco TP I would like to redeem myself by pointing to a story I saw on Drudge about a firm called Wallypop.It shows how far some want to go with this. Wallypo(o)p offers personalized washable toilet wipes in a variety of styles for your wiping pleasure! If it's wrong to sh*t where you eat, then why is it okay to for the government to eat where we sh*t! When infamous NJ Gov Jim Florio tried to tax toilet paper he tried to do exactly that!

TrUmPiT February 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm

As long as there is paper money, rich people will never want for toilet paper. They can simple break a hundred dollar bill into ones to save some money. How thrify they can be sometimes!

When I was in Spain shortly after Franco died in 1978, I remember there were basically two kinds of toilet paper: the common cheap kind felt sort of like sandpaper, the other was softer. Spain was quite poor in those days during and following the internationally ostracized dictatorship. Soft toilet paper was a luxury that most couldn't afford. I would imagine that the body builds up a tolerance to the rough stuff. A federally funded study of the callousing effect of grainy TP is required to find out. How could the politicians have left this important funding out of the recent stimulus bill? Maybe they were worried that the 600+ page bill would end up being used as toilet paper if people are made poor enough by the failing economy.

StolenMonkey86 February 27, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I also like the line about the newspaper business being "wiped out." Quite the pun.

Methinks February 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I would imagine that the body builds up a tolerance to the rough stuff.

Oh let me assure you, IT DOES NOT! You just learn to bleed without complaint and welcome the respite of constipation.

Greg Worrel February 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Two interesting facts in the article. Greenpeace says that some of the wood fiber comes from trees that are 200 years old. The Forest Products Association of Canada says that Canada cuts no more than .5 percent (1/200th for the mathematically challenged) of its trees every year. So even if ALL the wood fiber came from the oldest trees it sounds pretty sustainable to me.

So what is the problem?

I didn't see any mention of anyone suggesting government intervention. I don't have much of a problem with anyone urging others to act a certain way. It is when they want to make it a law that it becomes objectionable. Of course, too many people do not understand the difference, particularly legislators.

kebko February 27, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Here's some cool footage of a lumber harvester. Not for toilet paper, I think, but a cool machine.

LowcountryJoe February 28, 2009 at 12:23 am

I also like the line about the newspaper business being "wiped out." Quite the pun.

I was quite impressed, too. It was also quite ironic/moronic for the Times to invoke Mr. Whipple of all people — the hypocrite who could not help but squeeze the Charmin after telling other people not to. Did they not know this when the ran the 'news' article.

brotio February 28, 2009 at 1:45 am

All these comments, and not-a-one from Torquemierduck; who when not Crusading for his beloved Church of AGW spends his time as a proctologist (well, someone on another thread referred to him as a crap doctor).

I think our dear ducktor is uniquely qualified to speak on this subject.

Steve W from Ford February 28, 2009 at 1:53 am

Have any of you ever seen what type of wood a modern paper mill buys? It certainly is not what anyone would call "old growth virgin timber" as the Times states. Paper mills get along just fine with the lowest grade of chips and chip logs which are much cheaper due to their being too small to make much of anything else. Basically the pulp mills buy all the waste wood that would have previously been burned or left to rot. They also are now growing crops of hybrid poplars that mature and are harvested every 8 years or so. Amazing to see. Grown in rows like corn with drip irrigation and harvested completely mechanically. Not exactly the environmental holocaust that the Times wants to imply.
Wipe in peace.

Alan Forrester February 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I agree that soft toilet paper does no harm to the environment. If you ask me, that NYT article is a tissue of lies.

Brandybuck February 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Toilet paper is GOOD for the environment!

1) It is made from farmed trees. Renewable and sustainable. No old growth anything was used to wipe your fundament.

2) It sequesters carbon! OMG, we're all going to die unless we get the carbon out of the atmosphere!!! So let's bury as much toilet paper as we can in underground sewer systems!

mobile February 28, 2009 at 11:47 pm

They could have just said "Every time you take a crap, a spotted owl dies" and, um, saved some paper.

Murali March 1, 2009 at 2:32 am

Guys, its not like they're agitating for government intervention here. Its just private individuals exercising their free speech to say whatever they damn well want. (Its not even like its a case of shouting fire in a crowded theater). What's all the criticism about then? Or is everybody here so reflexively conservative that they have bloody well forgotten that there are other battles to fight. I mean, after presumably exhausting everything there possibly is to say about stupid government intervention in the economy, doesnt anybody here have anything to say about stupid government intervention into other parts of our lives or are you all fine with public school officials in southern states introducing creationism/intelligent design into school curricula. When there are so many mendacities enacted by government to worry about, why is it that Prof Boudreaux about what are admittedly inane arguments forwarded by private individuals, and printed in a privately owned newspaper which does not even argue for government regulation. To keep perspective, Hayek was a classical liberal who advocated the free market and was a good friend of Popper, not a conservative traditionalist with a distrust for science and modernity.

brotio March 1, 2009 at 4:30 am


My solution to your education nightmare is to give parents vouchers, and then they can put their kids in whatever school they want.

I do have to question your assertion though. Even in Southern states the teacher's union is God of the public schools. Darwin's theory will be taught as fact in every union-ran government school. Rest easy.

Murali March 1, 2009 at 4:53 am

Yes brotio, as will be Newton's Theory of Gravitation, Einstein's theory of relativity and the atomic theory of matter. I hat teacher's unions as much as the next guy. Thank god in Singapore we dont have them.

Murali March 1, 2009 at 5:03 am

Vouchers and bursaries may very well be good things in themselves, but as I said over at Will Willkinson's, more can be done to incentivise school standards whether or not said schools are privatised. Publishing county wide or state wide SAT scores on the newspaper is one way to shame stidents into performing better. Or, we could just start ranking secondary schools according to their students' performance and allow schools discretion on who they admit. The rest will take care of themselves. Given enough latitude even if not accompanied by complete privatisation (i.e. even if govt funded schools still exist) it doesnt take long before we get a competitive market for high quality education

Babinich March 1, 2009 at 6:04 am

"not a conservative traditionalist with a distrust of science and modernity"

Like those who claim that Climate Change is an looming catastrophe when the only debate that is clear is that CO2s role in Climate Change has not been determined?

What about the argument that science should go forward for embryonic stem cell research, but science should be abandoned when it is applied to clean coal research and reprocessing of nuclear waste from power plants?

Sorry, this is the screed of the "progressives" like Gore, Obama, Chu, Holdren, and Ehrlich.

Let the schools cover creationism /intelligent design. Discussion is good; discussion fosters debate and develops reasoning skills.

To the "progressives" science is a means to an end. Their end being the application of their ideology on the masses.

Buy votes; create a permanent indebted class. That's what all of this is about…

Murali March 1, 2009 at 9:25 am

Babinich said:

Like those who claim that Climate Change is an looming catastrophe when the only debate that is clear is that CO2s role in Climate Change has not been determined?

I'll just take an excerpt of article (PALEOCLIMATE:
Enhanced: CO2 and Climate Change
Thomas J. Crowley and Robert A. Berner) from the prestigious high impact factor journal Science:

"The first-order agreement between the CO2 record and continental glaciation continues to support the conclusion that CO2 has played an important role in long-term climate change. The Veizer et al. data, if correct, could be considered a Phanerozoic extension of a possible dilemma long known for the early and mid-Cenozoic.

To weigh the merits of the CO2 paradigm, it may be necessary to expand the scope of climate modeling. For factors responsible for the presence or absence of continental ice, the CO2 model works very well. In contrast, there are substantial gaps in our understanding of how climate models distribute heat on the planet in response to CO2 changes on tectonic time scales. Given the need for better confidence in some of the paleoclimate data and unanticipated complications arising from altered tectonic boundary conditions, it may be hazardous to infer that existing discrepancies between models and data cloud interpretations of future anthropogenic greenhouse gas projections."

Al Gore may very well have exagerated in his movie. This however, does not mean that we know nothing about how CO2 affects the climate. It seems that we know enough to be somewhat apprehensive about CO2 emmision levels. Of course exact effects on weather patterns are still unknown, but the effects on glaciation patterns seems fairly well known.

But apart from issues of CO2 and global warming, we must consider issues about the intrinsic value of some parts/aspects of nature. Perhaps value inheres to organisational complexity? Maybe the disvalue brought about by the slight discomfort associated with using rougher toilet paper is outweighed by the value saved by preserving a few very very old trees. These are important questions that are not too easily dismissed.

Or perhaps Prof Bodreaux, instead of the cheap taunts, could have made a teaching point about it by telling us why removing trade restrictions encourages profitable and environmentally friendly practices like poplar farming, elephant farming which leave virgin forests and wild elephants untouched. He could explain why trade restrictions force a black market which makes setting up farms impossible, thus increasing poaching and hastening the extinction of endangered species.

What about the argument that science should go forward for embryonic stem cell research, but science should be abandoned when it is applied to clean coal research and reprocessing of nuclear waste from power plants?

I never said anything about nuclear powerplants and clean coal. I dont see any prima facie reason why projects like these cannot go forward. And what, by the way, is wrong with embryonic stemcell research?

Let the schools cover creationism /intelligent design. Discussion is good; discussion fosters debate and develops reasoning skills.

Teach the controversy doesn't work. No one teaches the alternate theory of flat earthism, geocentrism or theories about the lumineferous aether. What is taught in schools is always the current scientific consensus (at least at the levels appropriate to it No one teaches at special relativity during lower secondary school.)

Tim Sandefeur talked about funding for scientific research not the science curricula of schools.

And if you can think of a way to have a privately funded public education system that suited the needs of a person in an industrialised society without making students go into debt bondage, that would be good. Otherwise, I dont see how you can educate the masses without redistribution (even if it is a voucher based system)

Buy votes; create a permanent indebted class. That's what all of this is about..

And the private loan of money from a rich individual to a poor one does not make them indebted to the rich person?

Sometimes its about terrible choices and choosing between redistribution and a backward subsistence agricultural society.

Babinich March 1, 2009 at 11:03 am

The "flat earth" and "geocentric" theories are covered in schools. They are part of the past; a history. Discussing these theories lead to our understanding of why the ideas of the round earth and a heliocentric universe took hold.

As for CO2 being the definitive cause in climate change I'd ask you to cite your sources that absolutely positive conclude that CO2 is the cause.

As for embryonic stem cells research was allowed to go forward. Where was the private capital? If the promise was indisputable, where were the George Soros' of the world to bankroll such initiatives?

Adult stem cells research, at this time, shows greater promise than ESC research. ASC skirt the delicate issue of destroying embryos and, to date, have been successfully used in medical treatments.

Tim Sandefeur discusses how government involvement in science blurs science because governments are agenda driven. So, the reference here is quite relevant.

A poor person might ask a rich person for a loan. That rich person may give that poor person a loan. The point in two individual parties entered into a private contract (in many more cases than not) voluntarily.

What I've addressed is the confiscation of one's assets in order to redistribute those to another group. This is being done to build a permanent voting block.

Sam Grove March 1, 2009 at 12:43 pm

close bold

Sam Grove March 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Looking at the page source, I can find no reason for the bolding of the text.

Murali March 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm

It was an accident.I only meant to bold the word public

Sam Grove March 1, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Yes, I see now. You didn't / the b.

Clara March 1, 2009 at 9:23 pm

If Green Fascists *really* wanted to save the planet, they wouldn't have children. (And I would support their decision wholeheartedly.)

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