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Environmentalists Redefining “Virgin”

This article at the Grauniad is noteworthy not for its routine America bashing or overwrought environmental panic-pimping, but for the laughably unsubtle parroting of the equally laughable (and undoubtedly calculated) misuse of the word “virgin” to describe wood materials derived from unrecycled sources.

Extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply toilet roll made from virgin forest causes more damage than gas-guzzlers, fast food or McMansions, say campaigners…

“Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.” Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests…

More than 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz…

Barely a third of the paper products sold in America are from recycled sources — most of it comes from virgin forests.

Which is a flat-out lie based on a deliberate conflation of terms: “virgin forests” are those which have never been harvested. It is not the same thing as “virgin fiber”, which is apparently an industry term for unrecycled wood-derived material:

“For bath tissue Americans in particular like the softness and strength that virgin fibres provides,” Dixon said. “It’s the quality and softness the consumers in America have come to expect.”

You’d think the spokesman for Kimberly-Clark would be a little more cautious with his word choice – whether or not it’s technically accurate or common industry jargon, the use of the emotionally-loaded term “virgin” in this context makes him appear to be accepting the environmentalists’ distorted premise that such wood fiber is from previously unharvested forests.

The comments to this article are typical of the (mix and match) anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-civilization, anti-Western, anti-industry attitudes one expects to encounter among the “citizen of the world” sheeple who read the Grauniad, but the one good dissenting comment in reply is worth reproducing here in full:

Looks suspiciously like an attempt to inflame the ignorant by obfuscating the language.
For years environmentalists (including me) have been fighting the fight to keep virgin forests intact … virgin being synonymous for “old growth” forests or forests that have never been logged commercially.

Now, the word — with its previous emotional baggage — is being applied to any unrecycled fibers. Sorry, but that’s the kind of intentional slippage I expect from the multinationals of the world, not so-called environmentalists.

Toward the (pardon the pun) bottom of this piece, it finally comes out that “virgin” in this context is wood from tree farms (generally fast-growing pine) that are renewable resources (and wonderful carbon traps).

Given the energy expended on recycling v. that expended on tree-farm harvesting, I doubt there’s really much difference … just an attempt by an increasingly profit-oriented, horribly cynical environmental industry to scare the, ummm, crap out of people.

And as Alston Chase describes, given the forestry practices of pre-Columbian native Americans, there are few if any forests that can even be considered untouched by Man. Not that being untouched by Man is such a great thing for a forest — as Colorado is about to find out to its sorrow, when the vast and overgrown pine forests here go up in firestorms at some point in the near future because of the kneejerk environmentalist opposition to thinning them out by logging and to spraying to contain the now-epidemic pine bark beetle infestation.

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