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Category Archives: Green

The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back

The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet – and now we have to fix it

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Internet business cables in California.

‘Dismantling the surveillance state won’t be easy. But whatever happens, we’re going to be breaking new ground.’ Photograph: Bob Sacha/Corbis

Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.

One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don’t cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers.

We need to know how exactly how the NSA and other agencies are subverting routers, switches, the internet backbone, encryption technologies and cloud systems. I already have five stories from people like you, and I’ve just started collecting. I want 50. There’s safety in numbers, and this form of civil disobedience is the moral thing to do.

Two, we can design. We need to figure out how to re-engineer the internet to prevent this kind of wholesale spying. We need new techniques to prevent communications intermediaries from leaking private information.

We can make surveillance expensive again. In particular, we need open protocols, open implementations, open systems – these will be harder for the NSA to subvert.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, the group that defines the standards that make the internet run, has a meeting planned for early November in Vancouver. This group needs to dedicate its next meeting to this task. This is an emergency, and demands an emergency response.

Three, we can influence governance. I have resisted saying this up to now, and I am saddened to say it, but the US has proved to be an unethical steward of the internet. The UK is no better. The NSA’s actions are legitimizing the internet abuses by China, Russia, Iran and others. We need to figure out new means of internet governance, ones that makes it harder for powerful tech countries to monitor everything. For example, we need to demand transparency, oversight, and accountabilityfrom our governments and corporations.

Unfortunately, this is going play directly into the hands of totalitarian governments that want to control their country’s internet for even more extreme forms of surveillance. We need to figure out how to prevent that, too. We need to avoid the mistakes of the International Telecommunications Union, which has become a forum to legitimize bad government behavior, and create truly international governance that can’t be dominated or abused by any one country.

Generations from now, when people look back on these early decades of the internet, I hope they will not be disappointed in us. We can ensure that they don’t only if each of us makes this a priority, and engages in the debate. We have a moral duty to do this, and we have no time to lose.

Dismantling the surveillance state won’t be easy. Has any country that engaged in mass surveillance of its own citizens voluntarily given up that capability? Has any mass surveillance country avoided becoming totalitarian? Whatever happens, we’re going to be breaking new ground.

Again, the politics of this is a bigger task than the engineering, but the engineering is critical. We need to demand that real technologists be involved in any key government decision making on these issues. We’ve had enough of lawyers and politicians not fully understanding technology; we need technologists at the table when we build tech policy.

To the engineers, I say this: we built the internet, and some of us have helped to subvert it. Now, those of us who love liberty have to fix it.

• Bruce Schneier writes about security, technology, and people. His latest book is Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive. He is working for the Guardian on other NSA stories

 

 

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Hey to all my Green buddies; here’s an easy way to make a difference

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Going ‘Green’ is Good for Business, Exec Says

Tips for Companies Trying to Clean Up Their Act
Despite pressing economic worries, the environment remains a top concern for consumers the world over. And that means environmentally-friendly business practices are as necessary for the bottom line as they are for the planet, says Joe Veilleux, president of Euromed USA (euromedusa.com).
“Being a producer of natural ingredients for pharmaceuticals and health supplements, we’ve always held environmentalism as a major company value,” says Veilleux, a registered pharmacist.“We’re glad to see that, even when people face unemployment and other economic hardships, they’re still committed to green practices.”
Recent polls, including BCG’s annual International Global Green Consumer Surveys taken throughout the recession, reveal an unwavering commitment to environmentalism, he says.
“Even at the height of the recession in 2008 and 2009, more than a third of consumers said they were willing to pay a little more for products that are better for the environment,” Veilleux says. “A majority said they consider a company’s environmental credentials when making purchasing decisions.”
Euromed recently earned “green” ISO 14001 certification for its Barcelona factory by meeting stringent criteria established by the world International Standardization Organization, which sets standards for sustainable and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.
“In the five-year process of re-engineering our factory to meet the ISO 14001 criteria, we learned a lot that can benefit other companies,” Veilleux says. “Some of the steps we took cost little to nothing; others were, frankly, expensive. But all companies today need to be aware that consumers are looking at what they’re doing to – and for – the planet, and they’re making buying decisions based on that.”
These are some of the initiatives undertaken at Euromed Barcelona, which manufactures herbal extracts and natural active substances for customers in the United States and Europe.
Recycling biomass – the company’s manufacturing waste product. We’ve found different ways to recycle the post-extraction biomass, depending on the product involved, Veilleux says. “Much of the residue is sent to companies that specialize in creating bio-gas – specifically, methane, which is used to generate power,” he says. “However, the residue left from milk thistle has such a high nutritional value, it’s actually used to feed farm animals. We ship the waste product to a company that dries it out and cleans it before it’s added to feed for pigs, chickens, cows, and the like. The biomass is given away for free, he adds.
• Wood pallets become compost. At Euromed, wooden pallets are reused until they can’t be used any longer. “At that point, they’re sent to recycling facilities, which use them in composting products,” Veilleux says. This step was easily accomplished by working through waste management companies.
• Printer toners get refilled. Empty toner cartridges are shipped to the company’s supplier, where they’re recharged and returned for use. If not for recycling, the toner cartridges would be deposited in landfills.
• Cleaner air and water. The company purchased new equipment to accomplish these goals, including on-site wastewater treatment and water purification plants, and equipment to decrease atmospheric emissions.
All totaled, Euromed spent $1 million to $2 million to upgrade its factory. It was money well spent, Veilleux says.
“We’re excited about the certification because it verifies that we’re one of the world’s leaders in environmentally friendly production,” he says. “That’s very important to us — we rely on plants, the Earth’s natural, renewable resources,not only for our business but for our personal health.
“We have a special interest in making everyone aware of how vital it is that we all take steps to prevent environmental damage.
About Euromed USA
Euromed USA supplies standardized botanical and herbal extracts and natural active substances for use in the pharmaceutical, health food and cosmetics industries. By extracting the necessary chemicals, the company can guarantee its products meet the precise chemical specifications necessary. Euromed was founded 40 years ago. Its parent company is the 100-year-old Rottapharm-Madaus corporation based in Italy.

 

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Fall Building Maintenance Tips – Prepare for the Cold Weather to Come

It’s been a long, hot summer for most of the country, but as the calendar gradually turns to September, fall is almost here and before you know it, the cold winter weather will be here, too.  Here are a few things you can do as a building Owner or Director of Facilities to ensure you and your buildings are ready for the change in seasons:

  • Perform Roof Inspections – Get your ladder and check out the roofs around your campus – or hire a qualified roofing contractor to inspect your low-sloped built-up and membrane roofs as well as the higher sloped shingled roofs.  Look for areas of loose shingles, especially around the building eaves where ice dams can form during winter, which allow moisture to enter under the shingles.  In addition, check flashings at vertical wall intersections, chimneys, and plumbing vent boots to confirm there are no holes or other damage that can allow water to enter the building during heavy rain or snow.  Adequate roof maintenance not only reduces leaks, but extends the life of your roofing systems.  It is important to check low-sloped roofs weekly during the leaf falling season to ensure that roof drains are not clogged with leaves and debris.  Higher sloped shingled roofs should be checked at the end of the season to ensure that gutters, valleys, and other areas are not clogged with leaves and debris as well.
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts – Ensure all gutters and downspouts are clear from debris so that they adequately drain water away.  This continues to be important as the season progresses and leaves begin to fall.  Consider pruning overhanging trees at this time to keep the leaves and debris off the roof.  Clogged gutters can cause water to back up, which will damage the roof and the trim around the roof and soffits, as well as siding.  During cold winter weather, standing and backed-up water in gutters can freeze and cause ice dams that will damage your roof and sheathing, and lead to leaks.  Downspouts should discharge into underground storm drain leaders or empty onto splash blocks that adequately divert the water away from the exterior of the building.
  • Inspect All Exterior Doors and Windows – Check to make sure that caulking is still flexible and is sealing any gaps between window/door frames and exterior walls.  This ensures the warm air stays inside the building during the winter and seals the exterior building envelope from water penetration and leaks.  For added energy savings, check the weather stripping at all exterior door frames to make sure it’s still in place and serving its intended purpose.
  • Check Exterior Faucets and Service Irrigation System – Install frost-proof exterior hose bib faucets or drain older non-frost-proof faucets to keep them from freezing and breaking during the winter.  This is also a good time to have the underground irrigation system serviced and prepared for winter by a qualified irrigation contractor.
  • Exterior Site Concrete  and Asphalt Pavement – Perform regular sealing of exterior cracks in sidewalks and paved areas during the fall.  Water that freezes inside these cracks can cause the concrete to spall and deteriorate, leading to more costly repairs later.  The water penetration can also cause the subgrade to soften, leading to settlement and potholes.  It is critical to ensure that all expansion joints are adequately sealed with a high-quality joint sealer to prevent water from getting below the pavement surface and softening the structural base course materials.  Routine and periodic sealing of the asphalt pavement with a liquid asphalt sealer will help seal small hairline cracks in the asphalt pavement, which also protects the structural base course from softening and degradation due to water intrusion.
  • Tune Up Your Heating System – Inspect all the furnaces and heat pumps to ensure they are clean and operating properly with clean filters.  Clogged and dirty filters cause the heating system to waste energy while heating the building to your desired set point temperatures.  Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they are operational.  Clean chimneys to ensure they are clear and not clogged with soot and other debris, which can cause gases to build up inside your buildings.  A qualified HVAC contractor will not only perform a visual inspection of your heating system, but will also remove covers and check filters, check blowers, ensure flues are clear and operating properly, and perform other safety checks that will assure a safe and warm environment for your residents this winter.
  • Check Attics – Check the insulation in your attics to confirm it’s the proper thickness and is distributed evenly.  Lack of proper attic insulation is a major cause of heat loss in a building, which will increase your heating costs.  You should also check to see that all vents are operating properly and there is no insulation blocking the continuous soffit vents around the attic perimeter.  This is also a good time to ensure that fire sprinkler lines located in unheated attics are adequately insulated to prevent freezing and breaking of these lines.
 

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Small Portions of Hope for the Construction Industry

For building firms and their suppliers this week’s “Government Construction Summit” has offered some mixed messages for the future.  The summit focussed closely on government procurement policies and efficiency savings; but amidst a rash of cuts in government spending, what do these efficiencies amount to?  Both the cabinet office minister Francis Maude and his chief construction advisor Paul Morrell outlined the current position for the construction industry and their own thinking on government building contracts, strategy and procurement.  The summit had a keen focus on both saving money, with some suggestions of possible opportunities for the building industry.

Government Streamlining

Building firms, however, may be less interested in how the government proposes to streamline its processes and more on the availability of construction contracts.  The summit showed that last year the number of contracts for new schools fell by thirty per cent while for roads the figure was nearly fifty per cent.  For many this is no surprise as the government’s austerity measures begin to bite and the effect on the construction industry has been clear with big names such as John Doyle going into administration last month and the subsequent loss of 290 jobs.  Like many other suppliers to the construction industry Doyle’s disappearance from the industry is a significant indicator of the effect that the lack of large scale projects is having on the industry.

Future PFI Contracts?

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) sector has provided a good market for construction firms in the past, however, at the summit the Treasury’s Infrastructure Unit could only announce that plans for the successor to the initiative will be made clear well before the autumn, and could be available in the next few weeks.  If this raised hopes for construction firms the statement was qualified by the statement that ‘we have had the largest successful investment in s social infrastructure since the Second World War already.  That “already” may be one that suggests there may not be much more on the PFI front planned for the near future.

It’s taking part that matters (if you’ve paid your entry fee)

Despite a cast of thousands in construction terms, the Olympian task of constructing the facilities for the Games Atkins remains the only construction company permitted to use its involvement in the project for marketing purposes.  This was confirmed at the summit, although smaller contractors were advised they could always tell prospective clients that they had been involved.  Sort of along the lines of “It was this big. Honest”.  Having paid for the privilege, it seems that Atkins intend to hold onto their exclusivity, while the smaller firms who have helped to make the Games possible will receive marginally less recognition than your average torch bearer.

Good Tsunamis

Tsunamis are not normally considered a great idea, but Terry Fuller the Homes and Communities Executive director promised one is on its way for construction firms, as housing finances are handed back to local councils.  This particular mega-wave is expected to come in the form of a flood of building contracts, according to Fuller, as councils rush to spend their new found rental income.  On the same theme Fuller disclosed that social housing landlords who fail to meet construction targets may have their funding removed and passed onto others, to ensure enough homes are built on time.

Mixed Messages

Overall the summit provided a glum picture of the construction industry at present, despite the major construction projects promised in the form of nuclear power plants and at least one high speed rail link in coming years.  While the government’s plans to rationalise its spending may not be of much interest to building firms, the changes to funding for housing could offer some hope, as could changes in the way grants are administered to social housing.  For construction firms, large or small, finding their own efficiency savings seems to be the order of the day.

For all sectors in the construction industry, from concrete batch plants suppliers to scaffolding firms, the governments summit this week has provide small portions of hope and some very mixed messages.

 

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VIDEO: Best marriage proposal ever

Isaac Lamb proposed to his girlfriend, Amy, in a very innovative way, and the video has gone viral.
Check out Isaac’s incredible proposal – set to Bruno Mars‘ “Marry You.”

CLICK ON THE PHOTO

 

When Isaac Lamb decided to propose to his girlfriend, Amy, he knew he wanted to do something over-the-top. but not even Amy was prepared for the elaborate proposal he staged with 60 of their closet friends and family members. The video went viral – and has already amassed almost 6 million views on YouTube at last count.

The video even got Bruno Mars’ stamp of approval!

Congrats to Isaac Lamb and the future Mrs.. I don’t think I could’ve made a better music video for this song. Thank youvimeo.com/42828824

 

Environmentally-Friendly Air Travel is Possible, and Here’s How

When one needs to travel a great distance and they want to get there in the most efficient way possible, they will generally book an airline ticket and fly. Aviation has revolutionized how people and goods are moved, but at a significant cost of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that it’s possible to fly in an eco-friendly way, and below we will share a few easy tips for your next flight.

Check for a Modernized Fleet

Newer aircraft are significantly more aerodynamic and fuel efficient than their elder counterparts, so whenever possible it’s best to fly on the airline with the newer fleet. Airlines take pride in their aircraft, so a quick check on an airline’s website or an online search will tell you the average age of the fleet and perhaps even the airplanes that fly your route.

All-Economy Seating is More Eco-Friendly

A number of airlines throughout the world are flying with a majority of “single class” cabins, which eliminate the necessities of business and first-class seating in order to get more passengers on the airplane. These aircraft will still use the same amount of fuel, but the amount of fuel used per-passenger decreases, and fewer flights are required to move the same amount of people. If you’re flying economy, look for a “single class” flight.

Fly Direct Whenever Possible

The closest distance between two points is a straight line, so if it fits within your schedule and budget it’s best to fly directly to your destination. Stopovers and additional flight time create enormous amounts of additional pollution, as does the higher volume of fuel consumption required for takeoffs and landings.

Leave Unnecessary Materials at Home

Most airlines have begun to charge exorbitant fees for checked baggage, with some going as far as to charge passengers for carry-on bags stowed in overhead bins. The simple solution to save both money and fuel is to avoid bringing anything you don’t need with you on your flight. If you have paper materials, try to see if they can be printed at your destination and make use of local cleaners to reduce the amount of clothing you need.

Following the steps above will help keep your “carbon footprint” to a minimum whilst traveling throughout the skies. For those that fly regularly and would like to go one step further, organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund offer carbon offsets which can be purchased to fund projects such as tree planting initiatives. It might not seem like much, but every step taken is another toward a sustainable future.

Want to take your green living to the next level? Ethosource used cubicles are refurbished to look new, saving you money and reducing waste.

 

Transport: A Dirty Business

So, you’ve turned your office into an eco-friendly haven, ensuring that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to become a more sustainable business, but it feels like there’s something you’ve forgotten… transport!

Business transport has a huge impact on the environment, the various types of shipping and transportation used by businesses increase greenhouse gases, CO2 emissions and oil pollution. Shipping aggregator, uShip, reported that, in Germany alone, 45.5 tonnes of Carbon and Greenhouse Gas emissions are produced by delivery vans and trucks.
What can we do as a business to offset this pollution?

The first step to making your business transportation climate neutral is working out how much CO2/Greenhouse gases your company produces through transportation. When you know how much carbon your business is responsible for producing you can look into options to offset this amount.
Many businesses are investing in climate-neutral projects to offset their usage, and many foundations that fund carbon-neutral projects crying out for sponsorship. Your investment will fund solar collectors, wind farms and other projects across the world.

Take a minute to think about your transportation options. What do you use? Have you ever thought about shipping via rail or water instead of by road? This small change could significantly reduce your emissions.

When shipping to local businesses, choose a local shipping company to reduce the amount of time delivery trucks will be on the road, subsequently reducing emissions.

Your employees can help too!
Suggest a car-pooling system and if you are using delivery trucks advise your drivers on the most environmentally friendly driving methods.

This post was written on behalf of the shipping aggregator, uShip. uShip recently announced that were offering 100% climate neutral transport across Germany, and Mainland Europe and also offer a ’man with a van’ service.

 

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Marijuana Must Be Legalized

The opinion and story of a Colorado Attorney:  

It is 5:00 a.m. on a cold dark Colorado morning. Twenty-five SWAT team officers, clad in black helmets, body armor, wielding assault weapons, large clear shields, and heavy iron battering rams, surround a quiet residential home, shatter the front door, and throw flash-bang grenades and tear gas inside.

The team of 25 militarized cops stream into the house, screaming obscenities, shattering the terrified childrens’ sleep and jarring the scared parents awake. The SWAT team then literally destroys the home and the furniture within, slashing couches, overturning bookcases, throwing possessions all over the floor, carting the crying children off to Social Services or foster care, and throwing the parents to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them painfully before carting them off to the police station.

The SWAT team then locates its target: a couple dozen three-foot high cannabis plants in a modest indoor basement garden, and a pound or so of dried plant matter, some lights, some fertilizer, and a few books on how to grow marijuana.

This is not an extreme example. This scene literally happens every day in America, a nation that loudly professes that it is a “free” country, but that leads the globe in per capita incarceration of its own people, a rate that exceeds those of human rights leaders such as North Korea, China, and Iran, due mostly to the war on drugs.

And this scene embodies America’s war on marijuana. A government this large, this powerful, this intrusive, this belligerent, is necessary to fight this modern-day prohibition against a simple herb that approximately half of the American adult population has consumed at some point in their lives. There are so many reasons this must change:

1. Money

The war on marijuana costs us money. The direct costs to local, state, and federal governments are staggering and exceed a trillion dollars. Police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, courts, jailers, prison guards, and defense lawyers form a massive prison-industrial complex that distracts limited resources away from our failing economy and other more important priorities. The indirect costs to the economy, though more difficult to quantify, are probably higher in the form of people removed from their families and their jobs, the opportunity costs of distracted police and jammed courts too busy to adjudicate important criminal and civil cases. We also lose out on the benefits of industrial hemp, which has no recreational effect but which could be an extremely useful crop for American farmers and industry.

And all of this money has been wasted — accomplishing, like so many other heavy-handed government programs, the precise opposite result of that which was intended. Even the U.S. government’s drug czar (it is appropriate that this government position is named after an imperial Russian tyrant), Gil Kerlikowski, admits that the 40-year experiment with drug prohibition has been an abject failure.

Decades of drug prohibition has not accomplished a single of its goals. Albert Einstein’s definitionof insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As our governments at all levels pour more lawyers, guns, and money into this militarized marijuana prohibition, people still obtain it — easily — and supply and demand is totally uninterrupted on a macro scale; one dealer falls, another pops up. Under Einstein’s definition, our government is literally insane.

2. Freedom

The war on marijuana is alien to the principles of a free nation founded on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. The negative impact of marijuana prohibition laws far outstrip the negative impact of the substance itself, which is one of the few things on Earth that has no practical lethal dose, it is basically harmless.

Humans in all cultures have used the cannabis plant since the dawn of history for medicinal, spiritual, industrial, and recreational purposes; only in the 20th century did it occur to any government to prohibit it. Thomas Jefferson and other founders grew cannabis on their plantations. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper. Even Genesis 1:29confirms that God gave man every seed-bearing plant on the Earth. God giveth, government taketh.

The history of American marijuana prohibition and “reefer madness” shows that its practical and legal basis is a house of cards. An outgrowth of alcohol prohibition which arose in roughly the same era, marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks.

For the American government to prohibit the cannabis plant, that government must declare war on its own principles. Such a prohibition then contributes to overall erosion in the general population’s respect for the rule of law, because the aggressive enforcement of this law touches so many people and makes the law itself — not just marijuana laws, but all laws and law enforcement officials — a joke.

The body armor-clad government stormtroopers are necessary to prosecute the war on marijuana. That level of expensive and intrusive force is necessary if cannabis, widely used and widely accepted, is to be prohibited from our private homes and lives. But perhaps the best brief against prohibition is the fact that marijuana is widely available to prisoners in America’s prisons and jails. Prisons and jails are the most tightly regulated, highly government-controlled locations in the world. If the government cannot keep marijuana outside of these places, can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?

3. Safety

The war on marijuana, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates and fuels the criminal underclass, organized crime, and domestic and foreign drug cartels. It is basic Economics 101: where there is a demand, a supply will be created to meet it, period. Human demand for marijuana, like alcohol, has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away. Leading economists like Milton Friedman have long seen the drug war as an economically-bankrupt policy.

If marijuana were legalized and taxed, violent drug cartels would lose the principal source of their income. Marijuana ought to be treated like a more dangerous substance: alcohol, available at the corner liquor store, and taxed and regulated. How many Mexican drug cartels smuggle beer over the border? Ban it, and you would see many. Create a regulated legal market for it, and the drug cartels are not involved.

4. Children

It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer.

That is because the government has created the black market in marijuana, making it more accessible to children. There is no black market in beer. It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, for adults, but difficult for children. Prohibition increases childrens’ attraction to marijuana; the “forbidden fruit” is always sweeter.

For all of these reasons and many more, Americans have now passed the critical 50 percentthreshold in support for legalization of marijuana. (These polls typically understate support, as many Americans are understandably reluctant to admit to using or supporting marijuana to an anonymous telephone surveyor.) Even conservative televangelist Pat Robertson recentlyacknowledged that marijuana ought to be legal.

It is long past time for politicians at all levels to end this bankrupt policy of Prohibition, and stop breaking down the doors of Americans who only want to possess a harmless plant in the comfort of their own homes.

 

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The Story of Paper: From the Tree to Your Desk

Do you ever find yourself staring at objects, or turning an item in your hand, squinting at it and feeling some kind of bafflement as to how an object came to be what it is? If so, then this story might be one for you.

For years, the human race has relied on physical paper copies to transmit their stories, memories, facts, histories, messages and more across time and space. But what about the story of paper itself? Who’s telling that? Everybody knows paper is trees, but how does this happen?

Here is my account of the life of a piece of paper:

A tree’s body:

The story of paper must begin with the tree trunk. Each trunk has its own outer layer of bark to protect it from nasty little threats in the world: It is the tree’s armour, naturally formed to shield it from harmful forces like wind, rain, climbing children and grazing insects.

Hiding just inside the bark is thin Cambium, which holds the key to the cells which become the bark and inner wood:

Attribution due to Peter Linehan under Creative Commons License 2.0

Sapwood is a tree’s lifeblood; it flows through the parts of the tree’s body just as our own blood does. It ensures the tree’s nourishment and healthy existence.

And finally, the aptly named Heartwood is the innermost part of a tree’s trunk. It isn’t living but it’s the tree’s strength, stability and core.

Attribution due to Aleksi Steinberg under Creative Commons License 2.0

All this material is formed of fibres, tiny little friendly cellulose strands stuck together by way of a natural adhesive called lignin.

And this is where our part in the story of paper begins, as it is through our separating and rearranging these very same fibres that brings paper into existence

Early steps:

First of all, chop chop, the tree’s body gets cut down.

Attribution due to Beatrice Murch under Creative Commons License 2.0

The logs are then taken to a paper manufacturing company, where they’re bathed, soaked and cleaned before being transformed into good little chips of wood.

The little chips are arranged according to size and moved on for pulping.

And what is pulping I hear you ask?

During this stage, individual wood fibres within the chips are broken apart and separated: It is essentially a making soft of the previously tough and hard substance to produce a malleable, mushy and watery product.

Some other ingredients are also usually thrown in around this point, things like starch, China clay, talc and calcium carbonate which contribute to the strength and brightness of the young paper.

 

Moving on the mush

The created mush that we now have is pretty much 99% water at this point, somehow, this all needs to be squeezed out. First, the papermakers spray the stock onto a wire, which is actually a wide, long screen, not a wire.

The water drips out the bottom and meanwhile, the little fibres are caught on the top side of this wire where they start becoming friends and bond to form a very thin mat.  This bed of fibres at the top of the wire is then squeezed for all it’s got between press rollers that take out yet more of its water.

The Final Steps:

Even after of all this squeezing and wrenching, the mushy stuff is still 60% water.

Let commence the dry end of the paper story: Huge metal cylinders are filled with steam and the stubbornly wet mat passes through these gigantic hot rollers.

This process of heating and drying the wet sheet gradually forces the fibres closer and closer together to transform the mush into the glossy magazines and A4 sheets of paper we see all around us. Voila!

Ok, wait this isn’t quite the end of the story.

The fledgling paper is made ready for the world:

The paper makers use a machine called the Calendar which is not a calendar. It refers to big, massive and heavy iron rollers that press the drying paper smooth, all uniform in thickness.

Sometimes, depending on our piece of paper’s function in the world, it is coated with a substance such as clay which makes it glossy and easy to print on.

And this is how a matted bed of tree fibres comes to serve us as paper in a countless number of ways in the human world.

Paper Problems

I love paper and would never want to ban it from existence, I love writing on it, drawing, folding, making paper aeroplanes, you name it… But we should also be aware of some downsides that are a result of this story.

Pulp and paper mills are actually among the worst polluters to air, water and land and I don’t want to state the obvious, but it also uses up a vast quantity of trees.

Still, trees are renewable so that’s not the end of the world as some might have you believe: Most of the time tree farms operate by a cut one down, plant one new policy which is…good. What this policy doesn’t resolve is the natural diversity and population of an unharmed forest habitat where animals can live how they are used to and want to.

So, the point is, to be aware of other solutions and rally around ways to keep the stories of paper going but in the most ethical way possible. Recycling efforts help massively and so far count for recovering about 43% of all paper used. We should definitely support the paper mills that use only recycled waste as their primary source of raw material.

There are also alternative natural products that can actually stand in for wood, especially when combined with recycled paper: Wheat, oat, barley and left over crop stalks.

Maybe it’s time got more of the paper glory?

Sometimes it’s good just to know these things and get the word out. This is why companies like Whitepages are to be commended: With the growing number of people that would prefer to just find the correct online directory site and hit ‘search’ for the contact information they need rather than trail through a book too heavy for them to lift with one hand, Whitepages has recognized the declining need for default print copies of every phone directory.

Their solution is to operate an Opt-in delivery program, so if you REALLY want one, don’t worry, you can get one.

But Whitepage’s philosophy seems to be pretty much just right: It’s not about halting the paper story; it’s about managing it, and not creating thousands more unnecessary individual paper stories.

Amalia Dempsey is a dedicated fan of paper, interested in writing and the world. She supports White Pages, an online telephone directory and address finder, and their quest to ban unnecessary print copies of long directories.

 

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