Disposable chopsticks are an environmental disaster. Known as Waribashi in Japan, where they were invented in the mid-eighteenth century; the overwhelming majority are produced in China, which is also their biggest consumer. China manufactures over 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks every year. An American company, Georgia Chopsticks, has gotten in on the business as well, producing billions more pairs each year. Others are manufacturing them as well- there is an unending demand. All of this adds up quickly. Even producing thousands of chopsticks per tree, it equals over 25 million trees felled per year. That’s over 10,800 square miles a year. An understanding of why they’re so used so heavily is essential in trying to find a solution to the problem. Somehow, a not insignificant portion of the conversation has decided that the disposable chopstick is a symptom of Western consumer culture. The truth is actually quite different: The disposable chopstick grew from chopstick-using cultures’ ideas of hygiene and etiquette. To explain why, we have to understand the history of the disposable chopstick.
Lawrence Watt Evans is a grossly under-appreciated writer. Primarily a fantasy writer, his books usually (though not always) center on average people caught up in situations out of their depth, rather than on the more normal prophesied hero/ heir to the throne/ unstoppable warrior/ powerful wizards so common in fantasy. A Young Man Without Magic follows a young man, Anrel, recently graduated from college in his nation’s capital, who becomes a hunted fugitive when he gives an inflammatory speech following his friend’s death at the hands of a local lord. Following a up and coming demagogue who uses political discourse and public speeches to fight his battles? That’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in fantasy.