Friday, November 20, 2009

Annual Pilgrimage

For this annual interstate free-for-all we Americans stop work for, I’ll be heading back toward New York to my Aunt Gloria’s house. We will all miss my Uncle Jim, the poet I’ve mentioned—and quoted—here before, though we all know that despite a sincere pleasure in seeing everybody he felt such obligatory festivity more a bother than anything else. And there are those family touchstones, the material things that serve as emotional anchors for me: the beautiful portrait of my grandmother, Charlotte, as a child in a white dress, her hands demurely clasped together, in a huge, gilded, circular frame; the grandfather clock, tall and stern and reliable as a patriarch; the steps up to my uncle’s study, a woody realm of books handled reverently and replaced precisely and suffused with the memory of pipe smoke.

I remember an early poem of his about writing poetry, which he likened to a kind of addiction. As a young reader, I was impressed by how he weaved that image throughout the poem—and pleased with myself that I “got it”, as if a successful poem is really a kind of “in” joke. I’ve never thought of the desire or need to write as an addiction. I’m too practical—I’ve regarded it as a tool, a vehicle; a means of connection, expression, and self-assertion. But I still remember its penultimate line: “..and so I find myself plunging into that same vein…”. As, creatures of both habit and nostalgia, we all do in one way or another.Happy Thanksgiving, and travel safely!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Publishing With Respect for Trees

When I spoke to Margot Baldwin of Chelsea Green a few weeks back, she mentioned the Green Press Initiative. I thought: this sounds like something I should know about. Alas, it seems that books are far from innocent in terms of their effect on the environment. Unbeknownst to most of us, however, there are ways to lessen that impact. So I did a little research, and this is some of what I learned:

--Each year the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined consume more than 125 million trees and release over 40 million metric tons of CO2 into the environment

--This is the carbon emissions equivalent of 7.3 million cars

--The fiber used for paper is often sourced from vulnerable ecosystems in several continents

--Some 25% of human-caused greenhouse gases can be attributed to deforestation

On the what-we-can-do side:

--Each ton of recycled fiber that replaces virgin fiber saves 17-24 mature trees and as much as 7.5 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions

--The Forest Stewardship Council offers guidelines and has a certification program for sustainable paper use

--Last month the White House set an example for responsible paper use with Executive Order 13423

--Business and environmental groups are beginning to work together to build forest conservation and restoration goals into industry practices, as in the Carbon Canopy model and the treatise on environmentally responsible publishing signed by more than 100 publishers

--Authors and consumers can make a difference by making their preferences and concerns knownThese are the trees I look out on when I work, though now the leaves are gone.