Trees sacrificed for our learnings
My daughter was then around five years old. She was attending drawing classes for improving her drawing skills. She had picked up a habit of tearing a complete page if she did not like the drawing she made on it. One fine Sunday afternoon, she was sitting by my side and engaged herself in practicing those she learnt to draw but not mastered yet. So the moment she was not happy with her performance she was tearing the page immediately. By about an hour I realised that she had filled up the trash with torn papers.
I could not resist myself and called her to say that, papers are made out of trees. So each time we read and write on paper we must remember that we could do that because trees sacrifices their life for the cause. My son around ten was nearby and started giving a deep thought. He had studied in his science books that trees have life. He asked me how papers are made and how much paper could be made from one tree. I then browsed through the facts about papers in the internet to provide him the information. Paper, as we know it today, had its origins in China. T’sai Lun who had developed traditional Chinese paper in about 105 AD, was defined as the god of paper makers.
Eastern civilisation developed more or less simultaneously with the civilisations of the Middle East and of Europe, but as if in a separate world. This is why paper, which was in general use in China nearly 2,000 years ago, was unknown further west until the capture of Chinese prisoners by Arabs at Samarkand in the eighth century. In 793 AD, Chinese workmen were introduced by Haroun-el Raschid to a factory in Baghdad. The next centre was Damascus, the main source of supply for Europe for several centuries. The word, Paper, comes from the Latin papyrus, which in the hands of the early Egyptians (its first known users) comprised the pith of a grass-like plant which was sliced into layers and beaten or pressed into sheets.
In India, the available writing materials were generally of two types: hard and soft. Stone, metal, shells and earthenware were the examples of hard materials. Engraving, embossing, painting and scratching were used for writing. Soft materials were wooden board (pati), dust (dhuli), birch-bark (bhurja-patra), palm-leaves (tada-patra), leather (ajina) and cotton cloths (karpasika pata). Paper, as a writing material, was hardly known in India before the 11th century AD. After the paper technology reached the Arabs, the Arabians improved the technique and supplemented linen with flax and other vegetable fibres. With the conquest of Sind by the Arabs, Khurasani paper was first introduced in India early in the eighth century AD, and it continued to be imported for several centuries.
Most paper is made from pine trees, of about 1 foot in diameter and 60 feet tall. Ignoring taper, that’s about 81,430 cubic inches of wood yields about 805 pounds of paper. Paper normally described as “20-pound stock” or “24-pound stock” that is the weight of 480 to 500 sheets of 17″ x 22″ papers to be about 5 pounds. So, using these measurements, a tree would produce (805/5 * 500) 80,500 sheets of paper. With this average calculation it is concluded that one tree meets the requirement of all books and copies of one student for the complete schooling period.