Friday, November 4, 2011

Where's My Tree?

I received an insurance bill this week with payment options.  The Internet auto-payment was labeled,  “Save a tree.”  This approach is clearly designed to manipulate my behavior, to guilt me into using the Internet instead of the postal service.  (Next I would expect the USPS to come back with a campaign to “Save a job” to counter this loss of business.  Then I would really be torn!)  Since they already sent me a coupon and return envelope, I was wondering how my throwing those away and going on line would create any savings.  I guess if I sign up this month, I don’t really have an impact on any trees until 6 months from now when they don’t send me anything in the mail.  The dirty little secret is that they don’t really give a rat’s rump about trees; they are just trying to reduce their cost of doing business.

Actually, I signed up, not because I have a soft spot in my heart for trees, but because it’s easier for me.  In fact I will now be paying all my bills electronically.  It may have an effect on some jobs, the postal carriers and people who open mail at the insurance company and utilities.  It may even save a tree or two; but if people really cared about trees, they would not treat each one as precious.  They would instead sacrifice some to build firebreaks in the forests to help better limit the damage from wildfires like those in Texas and California recently.  They would let the loggers and paper companies cut down some while planting some more and not get all sentimental about the old, tall ones.  Generally, the only difference between cutting down a tree and harvesting a corn crop is the amount of replacement time:  one year vs. 30 to 125 years depending on the type.

Critical thinking reminds us that this insurance company and others who use the “Save a tree” tactic only want to reduce costs while they present the appearance of being public-spirited.  It’s good for business.

Perspective reminds us that there are always trade-offs.  In this case it’s between trees and jobs or between closely guarding all trees and reasonably farming them for their own protection and for the products we need.  Perspective leads us toward a course of moderation.

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