Printing On Demand, Downloading And The Environment

We live in what is, frankly, a frightening age. There is always war of one sort or another on the horizon, and whereas once upon a time battles were fought in a specific location, a battlefield with definable dimensions, across a river or other obstacle, these days our enemy – maybe a religious zealot convinced that the nonsense inside his head represents some kind of reality or a political extremist who can only see one way of gaining the hearts and minds of a frightened population – can strike us wherever we may be.

It’s a bit odd that nobody flinches at reports of our dead mutilated in battle when a nation (not our nation, true, but a culturally close one) reeled in shock when a pop singer accidentally and momentarily revealed one of her breasts whilst performing somewhat energetically. You see, as a society we’ve got things twisted, priorities all wrong. The unintentional exposure of a breast is not a dreadful thing, but collateral deaths of civilians and children in a warzone most certainly is. Or have I missed something? Is death and gore and mutilation a wonderfully glorious thing and a human breast too dreadful to contemplate?

But this page isn’t about war even though I've got myself warmed up on the subject!

It’s about a worse prospect than being blown sky-high for the greater glory of a deity that probably never existed. It contemplates a greater tragedy than a young soldier dying valiantly in battle for a cause he doesn't understand.

It’s about the devastating climate change that is remorselessly raising the temperature of our planet and theatening the basics of our way of life. And we know it's true when the small army of scientists and meteorologists who happen to be in the pockets of oil companies and the like start panicking and produciing spurious evidence to the contrary.

We all know about it. Every season centuries-old records are being broken with warmest or wettest or windiest months parading through our lives like a climatic Guiness Book of Records. We all know, deep inside ourselves where maybe we don’t like to go so often, that our activities are doing this. It is the 4x4 Chelsea Tractor. It is the cheap flight to Prague. It is the air-conditioning that we've got for no better reason than because Mrs Jones next door's got it. And it is the vast acreage of forest hacked to oblivion in the name of printing more and more rubbish in more and more magazines and books.

We all know the basic elements of the science. Everytime something burns in air the carbon within it combines with free oxygen from the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide. This includes oily substances burning in internal combustion engines in just about every form of road vehicle. Air is taken in, the oxygen used to support combustion, and the carbon dioxide expelled into the atmosphere. Left to its own devices and with all other environmental factors cunningly removed the atmosphere would soon consist of an awful lot of carbon dioxide and very little oxygen (by soon I mean soon relative to the age of the Earth rather than relative to tea time). But bring in the plants both on land and in the oceans and everything starts looking very much greener than it did (both aesthetically and environmentally). The green, as we know, is chlorophyll and that, powered by sunlight, photosynthesises the carbon dioxide, converting it into carbon for its own growth and oxygen for my lungs.

There you have it: science lesson over!

A huge number of the green choryphilly things are in Rainforests, but these have been felled in almost unbelievable acreages, and we were told in the sixties and seventies that we were amputating the lungs of the planet and no good would come of it. Nobody took much notice of that, so we moved on to producing ever greater quantities of carbon dioxide as a consequence of our addiction to easy transport. Or maybe not-so-easy. Roads are frequently choked and we find ourselves getting nowhere slowly. We’re even told that if we try to improve our health by doing strenuous exercises then that adds to the climatic grief that’s just round the corner as we gasp out concentrations of carbon dioxide beyond those being exhaled by less active people.

But we know it’s our cars, our cheap flights, our ever-increasing use of electricity that’s really to blame.

We know that something should – no, must – be done.

We’re all on this wiki because we use Printing on Demand (or POD) for our books. That means a book isn’t actually printed unless it’s wanted. We know that. And we also know that it saves a considerable amount of waste, especially of paper and therefore of oxygen-generating woodland. If I’d had 1000 copies of my first book printed I’d still have most of that thousand left. They’d probably never sell and end up being pulped or dumped. Not very friendly so far as our environment is concerned: 1000 books being printed and bound and carted here, there and everywhere uses a great deal of paper, quite a lot of energy and wastes a great deal in transport costs.

So we can pat ourselves on the back because we don’t do that.

Yet Lulu, our patron, guide and benefactor, could help a little bit more.

We live and work and create our pollution the other side of a wide ocean from Lulu and yet many of our books are still printed in the USA and shipped here at great expense to ourselves and greater expense to the environment. When it was introduced to us formally as a business with what is tantamount to a UK wing I think we expected that would involve UK printing. There must be dozens of printers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland capable of doing the job, surely? After all, it's centuries since Caxton introduced us to the printed word.

Only then can we truly feel smug about our contribution to environmental improvement.

Personally I’d like to see a cheap and effective hand-held electronic device with a nice white screen of exactly the right size that is as easy (or easier) to use as is a book. One that accepts downloaded files in an easy-to-use format. No paper, no waste, just an eye on the viability of our planet through all the years that ought to lie ahead.

It is so easy to forget that we are custodians of a planetary environment for generations that must be the future of our race. If things go wrong, if there is a catastrophic environmental collapse and our offspring find themselves grubbing about in a second stone age, then we will have failed.

I'll bet there are very few of us who would happily choose to look upon ourselves as failures.

Those of us who use Lulu are quite accidentally and incidentally making a tiny contribution, and if others are like me we're making it for quite the wrong reasons - but we ARE making it. Initially Lulu (and other POD publishers) is a resort to produce a physical manifestation of years of toil over our keyboards and only when we've done that do we notice the fact that we've become environmental good guys.


I wasn't going to mention any of my books specifically in this, but I feel that I must because the environment and what we're doing to it has been high on my personal agenda for years. So here goes: my self-publicity. When No Light Shines deals with an appalling world left as a consequence of climate change and the dregs of our once proud race sinking into oblivion, and the conclusion of The Jewels of Ooombis, Fire and Water indicates that maybe the only way out of a predicament the near-future finds itself in may be going elsewhere, to another planet. But I'm not even going to try and talk you into buying a copy of either because the matter is too serious and threatening for idle self-publicity. Or maybe that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm confused. Help!!!

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