We are evangelists for paper and the wonderful versatility of this ancient material. There are paper’s tangible virtues: the tactile satisfaction of making a mark with pencil, ink, or paint; the way it absorbs and holds colour; the way it can be folded, sculpted, cut and glued; its surprising tensile strength and durability. This last attribute has a paradoxical element: the permanence of paper over time is balanced by its utter ephemerality, like the leaves of the trees. These qualities of permanence and evanescence remain more relevant than ever now, in a time of anxiety about the impact of humankind on the planet.
Paper is a stable, low-energy medium. A printed book, a written diary, a photograph or drawing, remains legible for decades or longer, where electronic files, with an ongoing energy bill for maintenance, can become unreadable in just a few years. On the other hand, unlike the hardware on which we store digital information, which is full of heavy metals, and will lie in landfill sites for millennia, or the information itself, which proliferates online or hides away in mysterious corners of our computers, to destroy paper is simple and the environmental consequences are less devastating.