Global Christmas

I’ve been reading articles on the Copenhagen summit meeting on global warming. 1) Because I have previously ignored the whole phenomenon?having lain for a long time in the warm bath of helpless passivity in the face of such an overwhelming catastrophe; and 2) Because I’ve been interviewing experts (scientists) on my Sirius show, and I don’t want to appear to be as ignorant as I really am. As my Grandmother used to say, that would be “a shame for the neighbors.”
Lo and behold, it has been revealed to me that, among other great man-made causes of global warming (spewing Carbon dioxide into the air and destroying the planet’s ability to absorb it so that it stays in the atmosphere) is de-forestation.

Now, I actually did know about the rain forests and how their destruction was contributing to the whole disaster. What I didn?t know (though, in retrospect it seems ridiculously obvious) is that ALL trees?all over the earth?absorb carbon dioxide. This includes what remains of the forests of North America, Europe, Scandinavia and Russia)?a great many of these trees being pine trees of one sort or another.

So, as a professional liberal (I say “professional” because I get paid to host a “liberal” political talk radio show) who is, ipso facto, enlisted in the great attack on Christmas… I propose that there should be a federal law forbidding Christmas trees; Specifically, this law would mandate a huge fine, imprisonment or the impounding of an offender?s wide-screen television as punishment for the cutting down of any tree, intended to be stuck in anybody’s living room, hung with decorations, then, as is the case in many large cities and towns, thrown out about a week after Christmas?then left to clutter up the streets and cause grievous emotional harm to thousands of building maintenance and sanitation workers.

Every year, Americans engage in a conspiracy to murder millions of helpless pine trees, drag them into their living rooms, anchor them in Chinese-made Christmas-tree stands and decorate them with Chinese-made tinsel, ornaments and lights. This not only destroys our planet by contributing to global warming?it also helps to maintain the terrible imbalance of trade with China. Not only that, having several hundred million lights on at the same time for several weeks uses who knows how much power? And this contributes even more to global warming?not to mention the plastic and rubber used up with all those wires and plugs?how much industrial pollution is caused by that!?

Furthermore, how does anyone know what sort of family or social structure pine trees have…? Every time a LIVE pine tree is sawed down, screaming silently in arboreal agony, who knows how the surrounding trees (its sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers and children) feel?
How would you like it if, every year, millions of pine trees swarmed into the streets of your city, sawed you off at the ankles, dragged you back to the forest and hung plastic ornaments on your nose, ears and remaining extremities!!??

The cutting down of Christmas Trees is killing the planet, it has nothing to do with Christ, it enriches Chinese industrialists who employ slave labor to produce ornaments and lights, and it uses up necessary power.
So, call your representatives in Congress?tell them to forget about health care reform, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, controls on financial institutions and all that other lightweight stuff that they have no intention of doing anything about anyway? Tell them to immediately get working on a law to save the planet: The law forbidding Christmas Trees.

The fact that I bought and decorated many Christmas trees with my children and my wife’s family, or that I loved sitting near the finished tree and looking at the beautiful lights and smelling that wonderful pine smell… The fact that I am Jewish and my Grandmother (whose powerful influence is still with me) was patently disgusted that I spent so much time with the “Goyim” helping them trim their trees when I was little…
Do these facts make me a rank hypocrite and a pathologically crabby misanthrope? Absolutely!
But I say, this is no time, brothers and sisters, for bourgeois sentimentality! Either you’re for the planet or against it!

To conclude with a moment of calm seriousness… Why not, indeed, let the trees stay in the forest where they belong, save the money spent on them, the stands, the lights, the ornaments and the electricity, and give it to some food bank or other charity? We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars every year that could keep people fed, clothed and housed during the middle of winter.
What do we imagine Christ would choose to do on the day celebrating his birth?

There endeth the sermon? Merry Christmas.

*Postscript 12/20/09


Like many fundamentalist preachers (and people who have had difficult childhoods), I’ve never been one to let facts, or, for that matter, reality, intrude on my stories/sermons.
However, I have gotten a great number of responses to this post pointing out (always politely) that I am completely ignorant about where Christmas trees come from (it’s not the stork).
In the spirit of actual journalism I will now share one of the messages I got: Please read it— it’s informative, personal and relatively short.

Dear Mike,

Let me start by saying that I don’t have a real, traditional Christmas tree. Haven’t for many years. Instead, we put decorations on a large, potted Gardenia bush that’s about 15 years old and about 4 feet wide. It sits outside for three seasons and comes in from the cold for winter, so we figured, “Why not?” But, before that, I would happily buy a cut tree and bring it inside for the Holidays. I was supporting a cottage industry that I used to be a part of.

What you need to be aware of is that evergreen trees sold for Christmas do not come “from the forest”, but from tree farms, most of which are family-owned businesses. We had one where I grew up in Michigan, a beautiful 20 acres upstate near Cadillac, with a small house, trout stream, and stocked pond where we could catch our breakfast. That farm, like many, was a former field of vegetable crops that was abandoned to weeds before my step-father – a professor of Forestry at Michigan State University — bought it and reincarnated it as a tree farm.

We planted row after row of Scotch pine, White and Blue Spruce, and Douglas and Frasier Fir, and watched a new forest grow, a foot or more each year. We would carefully prune the trees each year, shaping them into the classic shape, until they were ready for harvesting in about 5-6 years. Some we sold in bulk to others, some were taken by “cut your own” customers, some we brought to our house near Lansing and sold to our friends and neighbors for their living rooms. Whenever a tree was harvested, the next spring, we’d plant a new seedling right next to the cut stump, keeping the farm healthy. This is standard practice, a far cry from your image of forests being clear cut for the sake of frivolous decoration. What’s more, the used trees usually go into municipal compost, not landfills, so they nurture other plants.

I did hear that there was some program in the National Forests that allowed people to come in and cut a tree for five bucks. This may be something to criticize, since there’s probably not a program of replanting. But aside from that, and aside from those misguided people that take wild trees illegally, there’s nothing environmentally damaging about buying or selling a Christmas tree from a farm. I would argue that the tradition is even better than “carbon neutral”.

Now, let’s talk about the newspaper and magazine industry, junk mailers, and people who print their emails.

Dean Gallea

– Mike Feder (New York City – December 20, 2009)

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