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Her voice was as sharp and manicured as were her nails … they shone at me, clawing me with words that were cliched, not well thought of but just repeated like so many of the pseudo eco-warriors do as they sit within the comforts of their posh interiors — cosy in their animal printed leggings clutching onto that leather bag produced by famous designers.

She screeched into my ears, “Why are you even bothered to improve my daughter’s handwriting? Who will write on paper anyway in the near future? Stop wasting time and think of saving the environment.” This was splashed on my face by a parent at a PTA and ever since then I began researching on how the manufacture of paper does not harm the environment with ‘ruthless’ cutting of trees. A myth, spread by conservationists who probably haven’t done their homework well enough.

I almost told her that the air-conditioners that she cannot do without are probably more harmful for the environment, it is said to make the environment even hotter due to its contribution to global warming. It seems the use of air conditioning is increasing pollution in the environment by releasing poisonous gases into the environment. These gases include the chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons. They have a negative impact on the environment as they are part of the greenhouse gases that trap heat and lead to depletion of the ozone layer.

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The smell of hand-written letters or postcards, the anticipation and joy of receiving them and caressing the inked words of a loved one would fill one with unnamed emotions. And here, we wouldn’t need any emoticons to enhance the weightage of the written words! I do pray and hope that the ritual of writing letters makes a comeback.

Mrs. Kohli has always covered up for her inability to subscribe to the print edition of the newspaper by spewing out her ‘concern’ for the environment. “We must save paper and discourage the sale of this print edition. I love trees, you see!” But probably she did not know that paper can be recycled and is bio-degradable. Pulp and paper companies often are accused of cutting down trees to make paper. However, a large percentage of the fibre used for papermaking comes from recycled paper. Most of the remaining wood is obtained either through forest thinning (removing slow-growing or defective trees) or from lumber milling residues — materials that otherwise would go unused.

When I met some people from the paper industry, they were of the opinion that, “If not for anything else but at least for our own sake we plant more trees than we cut.” It’s also important to note that a high per cent of deforestation in many areas is for agriculture and by real estate promoters. So, the wisdom lies in using such precious resources judiciously.

Paperless world?

When schools celebrate a “paperless” day, I wonder whether there can be anything as such? Personal care items (bathroom and facial tissue, bandages and disposable hospital gowns), packaging (envelopes, boxes, folders), building materials (insulation, gypsum board, sandpaper), toys and games (playing cards, games, kites) and paper currency-all of this come from paper.

The other day, I read a poster, outside a restroom that said, “Save paper, use both sides.” The most hilarious message of them all!

The epistle, the billet doux, the old, poetry-laden diary, the ancestral pile of inland letters from my parents to me, the photographs in my old albums-like memory pockets, have the magical skill to transport me to different eras of my life — all of these and more are objects that I am ready to give up my life for. Then there is a grandfather’s gift of The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru to his grandson, the hundred odd books written by grandpa, and the complete works of so many other authors-they all adorn the bookshelves around me as they breathe life into my house. Probably a Kindle wouldn’t be able to do so. Well, there is nothing digital about all of the above, I thought, as I ran my fingers over the buttery surface of a sheet of Fabriano paper, feeling the texture, that soothed my mind every time I was to adorn it with hues of water colour, but they all leave their imprint for posterity …

The day paper becomes obsolete, that would be the day when I would believe that all human beings have turned into machines … the annihilation of emotions that were penned down for posterity … words would just be dry, typed out vocabulary, devoid of warmth and depth!

— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp