In his column in today's NYTimes, Thomas Friedman quotes from another columnist in The China Daily of Shanghai:
"...we no longer have abundant forest cover, our land is no longer that green, our water tables are depleting and our numbers are expanding faster than ever. ... China itself uses 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year, or 1.66 million cubic meters of timber, or 25 million full-grown trees."
In the face of environmental catastrophe, Columnist Zou Hanrou suggests that the Chinese must either begin using steel chopsticks or return to eating food the timeless way, with their hands.
Foodie has not researched this, but wonders first of all why plastic chopsticks have not taken over--she has several sturdyl pair of these in her own kitchen. Plastic chopsticks are made from petroleum, of course, and therefore they are not the answer, but chopsticks for throw away use made from either corn or potato starch could well be. Have any alert foodies seen, read or heard of these?
Not that eating with the hands is utterly unthinkable--the Bedouins and many others around the world do it quite nicely, and flatbread makes a handy eating device to augment the fingers. Foodie always marveled at the sensible Ethiopian notion of eating food from an edible tablecloth made from the native millet, tef, and then munching much of the "cloth" as well.
( Pic from www.robsworld.org. Click on this site for excellent instructions on what may become a fading art--eating with chopsticks.)