Rubber is, without question, the most underrated and undervalued material on earth. In Harold Evans' book, ``They Made America,'' he states, ``The dissonance between the obscure origins of what we now call vulcanized rubber and its ubiquity is monumental.'' In another reference to rubber, he said, ``Without it, the planet would shudder to a dead stop.''
The History Channel's ``Modern Marvels'' episode on rubber states, ``Some experts contend that rubber is the fourth most critical resource in the world after air, water and oil...and perhaps the most fragile.''
The March 20 issue will be unique in the history of Rubber & Plastics News. We have published other keepsake issues in the past commemorating the 100th anniversary of the pneumatic tire and paying tribute to rubber chemists. But this one will be different. It will celebrate the value of rubber in our everyday life.
RPN is a business newspaper written for executives and technical people at rubber product manufacturers, so we are not naive about the material. Rubber is also a tough business. Many would say the last 10 years have been some of the most difficult historically from a business standpoint. Bankruptcies, consolidations, price-fixing, oversupply, shortages and a monumental geographical shift in materials and end-use product manufacturing all have contributed to this challenging decade for the rubber business. Unfortunately, such tumultuous business conditions are not new to the rubber industry.
Biographer Charles Slack compared the bursting of the dot-com bubble to what happened to the rubber industry in the 19th century when he said, ``Just as speculators drove the value of untested, unprofitable dot-com startup companies to several levels during the 1990s, thousands of 19th-century New Englanders poured their life savings into a miracle substance called rubber without knowing anything much about it. In both cases, the education was hard-earned and painful.''
Certainly Charles Goodyear would have agreed that rubber as a material was not an easy business. His trials and hardships trying to develop rubber are legend.
I think because of the industry's business difficulties and a few-very few-tire recalls, its image has been hammered. Our self image has taken a beating as well. For most of us, the last decade has not been easy. But through it all, rubber's value to society has only increased. The quality of the products and the safety they provide have made huge strides. It is something we can all be proud of. Something we can tell-let's make that shout-about it both inside and outside our industry. To grade schools, universities, employees and families. That's what the March 20 issue will do.
The ``Celebration of Rubber'' issue in March will not be about the business of rubber but about rubber's value to our everyday life-from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we fall asleep at night. From thousands of feet below sea level to footsteps on the moon. From rubber bands to rubber coatings on stents in coronary arteries. Regardless of where we are and what we are doing, rubber is absolutely vital. It is ubiquitous.
This issue will celebrate that value unlike any other. We want our readers to be part of it.
I invite you to share with our editors any interesting stories you may have about how rubber has affected your life and/or your business. It could be in very small ways or something much larger. Just contact them and they will take it from there.
Make sure you mark the date on your calendar and read this issue. It will be all about the marvelous, mystical, magical material you and I call rubber.
Simmons is the publications director for Rubber & Plastics News and a Crain Communications Inc. vice president.