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Kindling, part 2

Though it's more ideological than consumerist, the second reason Kindle will fail is environmental.

Since the dawn of electronic document technology, futurists have been touting the positive environmental impact of the paperless office. Think of all the trees we'll save! Can we please kill that fallacy once and for all?

First, trees are a renewable resource. At issue is whether we renew that resource at a rate that meets our consumption, not the resource itself. Second, paper is recyclable. Reuse what's already been manufactured. Third, paper is biodegradable. True, as it rots it releases methane, a greenhouse gas several times more potent than carbon dioxide. But such emissions can easily be mitigated by recycling and offset by planting trees to replace the ones we've pulped. Besides, despite methane's potency, the declining number of readers compared to the increasing number of cars in the U.S. suggests that carbon dioxide is the real problem.

Now imagine the tens or hundreds of thousands (we don't know because Amazon won't release sales figures) of Kindles out there that we'll break or get bored of and throw out in a few years. Think of that petroleum-based plastic breaking down and leaching into the soil. Imagine the lead and silicon used in its chips oozing into the ground water.

Better yet, imagine all those discarded Kindles being shipped to our real Island of Misfit Toys. Do we still wonder why our pet food is poisoned and our babies' toys are full of lead?

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