Jul 30, 2007
Well, it’s back in the news – the Chiang Mai Zoo in China is making a handsome profile selling … panda droppings. Not hot off the press – dried.
Now, we last heard about the doings of pandas and the good use they could be put to a few months ago, when reports came out that they could and were being made into paper…
Yes. Paper. A marvelous invention. You can fold up a sheet and easily take it with you. You can bind it in a book, which has the advantage of what I call "reliable locatability." Even perma-links don't have this. The web site can be down when you need to access the page. But the pages in books are never down - until or unless they're lost or destroyed. The natural state of paper is that what's on page 30 today will be on page 30 tomorrow - and, if not forever, for however long the book lasts.
You don't even need an energy source to read a book during the day - nice old sunlight works just fine. Even on cloudy days.
Paper was invented way back when - actually by Cai Lun in China in 105 AD - and was in use in the first golden ages of learning by the Chinese, Alexandrians, and Romans. It had its pros and cons in comparison to parchment, papyrus, and similar media. But flimsy paper outlived them all.
In our ecology-conscious age, people sometimes lash out at paper as destructive of the trees from which paper is made. We probably plant enough trees to make up for any damage, but, ok, I like trees, too.
But now China has live paper-making machines in pandas…
Crazy? Well, pandas eat lots of bamboo, so the Chinese figure the paper content that comes out of this process should be pretty good.
And there's plenty of raw material - pandas apparently produce about 20 kilograms of droppings a day...
Freud would have had a good time with this - he thought that writing was an anal process. And there's a poetic reunion possibility if you think of one of the other uses of paper.
Come to think of it, panda paper would be particularly fitting for ... publication of nasty reviews.
Hey, I've gotten them, all writers do, and I'm a great believer in the maxim that the worst publicity is no publicity - but if I received a lousy review, it would be especially appropriate, in the greater theme of things, if it was printed on panda paper.
Because then I could quote with enhanced effect what the composer Max Reger (1873-1916) communicated to critic Rudolf Lewis after receipt of a stinging review:
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me."
more on the history and future of paper, with other fun facts, in The Soft Edge -"remarkable in both scholarly sweep and rhetorical lyricism..." -Wired
See also The Durability of Paper