09 December 2009


if the title seems a bit macabre to you, that's because the concept to which it refers is fairly gruesome to me. the custom of decorating trees at christmastime started in 16th century germany, and spread through european countries and their overseas colonies. initially, people were content to brighten up outdoor trees with color and lights -- but it wasn't long before christmas trees were cut down to be brought indoors for decoration. as a child, i was charmed, and didn't question the ethics of killing a living thing for a few weeks of visual pleasure, much less the environmental significance of removing millions of oxygen-producers from the world's forests every winter.

as an adult, it breaks my heart. i've lived all over the u.s., including regions where commercial tree farms raise acres and acres of monocultured trees, to be "harvested" and sold in urban tree lots like so many chickens at the supermarket. whenever i see a truck loaded with trees on their way to sale in homes (or trees to be cut into lumber -- see center photo), i grieve for all those tree corpses.

there are alternatives. we could return to decorating living, outdoor trees. we could buy live trees in potting soil, and after the christmas season, plant the trees in our yards and parks. as a substitute for trees, we could decorate live plants of any species which fits into our homes -- from bamboo to cactus to native ornamental shrubs. it's not an either/or situation.

all i'm suggesting is that we reconsider destroying entire forests of young trees every year, when the planet is in such desperate need of these organisms which live on carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. not all customs are defensible, just because they are traditional. i'm just sayin'. (top image, outside notre dame cathedral in paris. bottom image, in a private home.)

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