Baltimore maryland. I was waiting for breakfast in a coffee shop the other morning and reading the paper. The paper had sixty-six pages. The waitress brought a paper placemat and a paper napkin and took my order, and I paged through the paper.
The headline said, “House Panel Studies a Bill Allowing Clear-Cutting in U.S. Forests.”
I put the paper napkin in my lap, spread the paper out on the paper placemat, and read on: “The House Agriculture Committee,” it said, “is looking over legislation that would once again open national forests to the clear-cutting of trees by private companies under government permits.”
The waitress brought the coffee. I opened a paper sugar envelope and tore open a little paper cup of cream and went on reading the paper: “The Senate voted without dissent yesterday to allow clear-cutting,” the paper said. “Critics have said clear-cutting in the national forests can lead to erosion and destruction of wildlife habitats. Forest Service and industry spokesmen said a flat ban on clear-cutting would bring paralysis to the lumber industry.” And to the paper industry, I thought. Clear-cutting a forest is one way to get a lot of paper, and we sure seem to need a lot of paper.
The waitress brought the toast. I looked for the butter. It came on a little paper tray with a covering of paper. I opened a paper package of marmalade and read on: “Senator Jennings Randolph, Democrat of West Virginia, urged his colleagues to take a more restrictive view and permit clear-cutting only under specific guidelines for certain types of forest. But neither he nor anyone else voted against the bill, which was sent to the House on a 90 to 0 vote.”
The eggs came, with little paper packages of salt and pepper. I finished breakfast, put the paper under my arm, and left the table with its used and useless paper napkin, paper placemat, paper salt and pepper packages, paper butter and marmalade wrappings, paper sugar envelope, and paper cream holder, and I walked out into the morning wondering how our national forests can ever survive our breakfasts.
“Down with the Forests” from Dateline America by Charles Kuralt, copyright © 1979 by Harcourt, Inc., reprinted by permission of the publisher.