Real or Fake? That is the Question
Habits are so hard to change. Take buying a Christmas tree for example; something with which I have personally struggled this year. Culturally, concern for the environment has prompted many of us to take a penetrating look at how our myriad habits can be destructive. For me, acquiring a Christmas tree is one of those activities that merits scrutiny. As a child growing up in Michigan, trees were cheap and plentiful and snow was endless. I could not possibly have imagined that both would become threatened in my lifetime. It's yet another lesson on how a culture can go from abundance to scarcity in a few generations, if it's not paying attention. Global warming and overpopulation do not make my favorite yuletide cocktail, but these world problems are not going away any time soon, and certainly not without our best efforts focused on them.
Sometimes the challenges seem beyond overwhelming. Where can one person begin to heal the earth and make an impact? I came to the conclusion that I needed to move with strength. In other words, I need to support one or two issues about which I feel passionately, because then I can sustain support and really throw my weight behind them. For me, one of those issues is species preservation. I admit I'm not normal when it comes to a love for animals. In my world, life would not be worth living without all of them. I don't want to see the symbol of skull and crossbones next to another species on the Red List. I want the Sumatran Rhino to overcome its critically endangered status and thrive in one of its last strongholds, the island nation of Borneo. So I feel like my work with Seacology helps with my personal angst toward the survival of the animal kingdom. We specifically address the species crises on islands globally; and islands are where the majority of extinctions have occurred for the last 500 years.
As I battled with my Christmas tree dilemma, which is pretty much the same as paper or plastic at the grocery store, I chose a real tree. The Weather Channel recently gave a mini-tutorial about the merits of buying a real or fake tree. Since most fake trees are made with PVC, and 80% of them end up in landfills, they recommend buying real trees. Most Christmas trees are grown on (perpetually planting and growing) farms, and while the trees are alive they still contribute to "the lungs of the earth" by removing carbon monoxide from the atmosphere. I am now giving a total disclaimer from any true in-depth knowledge of the situation, but that's The Weather Channel's take on buying trees this year. From a shallow look at it, this makes sense to me because organic materials are generally more earth friendly. And by the way, it's difficult to find more information on this very subject, but here is at least an attempt to make some sense: http://www.grist.org/advice/ask/2004/12/08/umbra-tree/
I do know that, all things considered, I'd rather leave a few dead branches lying around to decompose. I have a plan to discontinue my Christmas tree purchases in three years when my son leaves for college. We'll celebrate by skiing and snowboarding, and toasting our ability to pay his tuition. In the meantime, I'm hoping my current Christmas tree doesn't contribute to the extinction of the endangered Hawksbill turtle, above. And for sure, I hope it doesn't wipe out the critically endangered Coelacanth at left, which has defied extinction since before the dinosaurs chomped their last ferns. That's my Christmas wish for 2007. That and Peace on Earth.