“Reduce Paper Usage or Reduce Digital Data Usage”, which option would help relieve Global Warming?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020



Finally, we are approaching the year-end.  It seems time flies each year while the world is stepping into the digital era completely.  Although KBO Earth has just started like a clawing baby who just learns how to walk, our steps become brisk and stronger each day because we believe in what we know and are faithful on what we do…

I would like to take you back to our first seminar in June 2019.  The General Director of Royal Forest Department mentioned that how to increase area of forestry in Thailand.  The idea he shared with us was that planting trees alone is insufficient.  We have to make a workable Circular Economy from usage to creation.  The more we encourage people to use woods from forestry, the more we have to encourage people to plant more trees.  “Bamboo” is one of targeting plants for promoting the Circular Economy.  However, when this idea is publicly revealed, there are two groups of concepts opposing the idea.  One is a strict conservative group.  They believe that the deforestation should not take place at all.  They may get caught with such campaign because if we allow the wooden industry to grow rapidly, the amount of forestry will get decreased rapidly too.  Another is a group of idea arising in the midst of the cessation of paper usage to reduce deforestation and conserve environment.  During the time, oversea software companies had invented a technology allowing a large number of people to work without paper, also known as “Paperless”.  The design of software and platform enabling this feature is successful to certain extend.  This includes email that we are using nowadays.

Looking back chronologically, when there was a campaign to reduce the wood usage, the furniture manufacturers turned to use substituted materials, i.e. plastic, or synthetic materials whose main component was plastic.  When it became widely used, this resulted in “technological by-product”.  This means inventors have come up with amazing ideas in designing products and services to attract consumers’ money leading to the state of “superfluous consumption and convenience”.  Until recently, we have learned that substitution of wood usage with plastic usage is equally bad, and potentially worsen because it has caused pollution to nature and environment as a free gift.  In the era where “Everything is Plastic!”, human overuse of plastic so much that it has caused wider severely environmental impact.  It took more than 50 years that we then started to be aware and realized the effect to environment from the overuse of plastic.

In terms of paperless by substituting with technology, the usage of paper is also reduced.  In Thailand, if we retrieved news archived over a decade ago, there was an incident where a paper factory located along the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi province released untreated water to the river causing pollution and death fishes floating on the water surface.  The campaign for paperless was therefore successful and effective from both private and public sectors.  We are accustomed to the convenience of paperless through the communication and internet technology.

I’m pointing out that the campaign to reduce the usage of paper with technology is similar to that of “the reduction of wood usage and the replacement with plastic” 50 years ago.  It has now become “the reduction of paper usage and increment of digital data usage”.  So, how do we move from here?

It has taken 30 years our world has completely reached digital era.  KBO Earth, on the other hand, is campaigning for people to reduce the usage of digital data.  That has caused resistance and some people suspect that “What a campaign!? Is KBO Earth rationale or imaginary?”

If we think carefully about the two camps of thought, either “the wood usage reduction” or “the paper usage reduction”, it is a decision to rectify the problem rightfully and fit for purpose under particular time and condition.  However, the by-product or impact of solutions in the long run come from craving and greed of human in deed.  As the invention by human always has two side of the coin.  The excessive usage of inventions would always bring disadvantage.  Therefore, the problem doesn’t lie on the existence of plastic or digital data, but it lies on human’s behavior in using them instead.

The craving arises from the excessive need of convenience for all of us.  This has brought us to this point.  Take an example of thing close to us, for instance, garbage from plastic glasses or plates.  There is huge amount of them only because we don’t want to clean the containers.  We feel it’s more convenient just to dump them away.  The fast food suppliers would then create “norm” that “use then dump” as part of their service to their consumers.  They view reuse or recycle is a burden.  After we buy and use a product, the responsibility of managing garbage has shifted from producers to consumers.  The consumers then push that responsibility to bin collector up to the garbage concession, respectively.  After separating things that could be sold, the residual plastic would be separated and left over on the earth…

Who then bear the consequences?

The cycle that is about to take place with the reduction of paper usage would be similar.  When everyone stops using paper, the convenience of digital world substitutes.  However, the side effect of being paperless is push to consumers from the service providers.  For example, if you don’t use paper, you are offered a technology of e-book instead of paper book.  Together with the access to internet anytime, you can access e-book any time at your convenience.  As human has craving and geed deep inside their mind, additional services are added up due to side effect of this development.  Beside e-book, there are other entertaining media namely TV programs, series, online games to offer to consumers.  What even worse is all these services are wireless.   There is no dangling wire so that consumer and move conveniently as they like.  The consumers can use the services anywhere at home, on the move, or while having meal.  The culture of “facing down society” is born.  Oh my goodness! it has become never-ending story already!

Let’s take a deep breath and pause to ponder for a while… We have just stopped using the paper recently.  But why we end up with the radical change of our path of life.  We live in a digital life-style.   What scariest is the silently hidden disaster under the convenience at finger tips.  It is as if we are walking and admiring the water stream in the forest while it is raining, cooling, and fine; without knowing that a flash flood with enormous power is accumulating and will bring catastrophe suddenly.

This is what KBO Earth is trying to educate everyone.  Don’t take it for granted on the silent threat.  What behind technology is gradually destroying the world slowly, silently, and smoothly.

So, what would be the way out?

The simple answer is balance or middle path.

KBO Earth is not requesting you to completely stop using digital data.   But we are telling everyone that please use it consciously and be aware of its side effect.  If we use it as and when needed, I believe that the impact would not be so severe that we can manage it.  If we use it excessively to satisfy craving as we are currently doing, this is very scary.  Walking on the middle path, no more or less, will be optimal benefit.  We will have equanimous life, without stress, maintain good relationship, spend good quality time with ones we love.  A child will grow up without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  A worker would have no stress as his supervisor would not follow up work on him throughout 24 hours.  The elderly will be a victim of cybercrime and will have more time to exercise and spend more time with their grandchildren and not getting ill because of overuse of mobile phone all the day.

Therefore, “we can simply conclude that we should come back to use more wooden products, not stop using it at all, but use them in moderation.”  It is essential that it should go along with plan to promote forestry for economy, retain and increase the density of forestry, including expanding the areas of reserved forest to increase capacity of carbon dioxide absorption of the Greenhouse Gasses.  As for the use of paper, we can use as necessary because everyone is aware of how environment is polluted from the process of paper production.  In the meantime, we should use internet consciously and as necessary.  Think twice especially on the use of internet for entertaining purpose.  As I mentioned before, the use of internet unconsciously would be silently dangerous and bring disaster unconsciously.

We know that “using internet consciously” would be the hardest campaign to run at this moment because everyone is addicted to it already.  However, we strongly believe that if we start from ourselves, we can absolutely change the world.  Please come and join KBO Earth “4 hours of no-WIFI on Sundays”.  Give back life of yourself and family.

Articled by Lieutenant (Lt.) Pitak Tiranakul

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