Tags: Enviros | Want | Treeless | Christmas

Enviros Want a Treeless Christmas

Friday, 23 December 2005 12:00 AM

Some environmentalists are expressing angst during the Christmas season instead of joy, worried about what they view as the negative environmental impact of both real and artificial Christmas trees.

The Sierra Club, in its publication Sierra Magazine, recommends that people look for "a storm-felled branch, or a piece of driftwood" to decorate in their homes, instead of the traditional Christmas tree.

Eric Antebi, the Sierra Club's national secretary, also suggested that people consider celebrating Hanukah instead of Christmas because Hanukah is a more earth-friendly celebration.

Environmental activists also appear to be struggling over which type of Christmas tree to condemn the most.

"The choice between real and not real is especially painful for some environmentalists. Either they desecrate the Earth and chop down a tree or buy a fake one that's full of landfill-clogging polyvinyl chloride, which is kryptonite to greenies," stated an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 15, titled "Choosing a Christmas tree can be an ethical quagmire for environmentalists."

But critics of the environmental movement ridiculed what they saw as an unwarranted attack on Christmas trees.

"Having tried to shame us for our 4th of July barbecues and fireworks because of air pollution, and our Thanksgiving turkeys because of hunting and farm issues, it's no surprise that some of our more egg-nogged environmentalist friends have now come a-carolin' over the outrage of Christmas trees," said David Rothbard, president of the Washington-based Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) in an interview with Cybercast News Service.

"As for the Sierra Club's idea that we make our own trees out of storm-downed branches or driftwood, I think someone's been standing alone under the mistletoe for too long. I can't imagine what waking up to presents under that kind of tree would look like, but I think I'd rather try the mangy, forlorn tree from Charlie Brown's Christmas first." Rothbard said.

Rothbard's sarcasm notwithstanding, some environmentalists see a genuine ethical dilemma involving Christmas trees.

San Francisco forest activist Kristi Chester Vance summed up her environmental concerns when she described how she had to warn her eco-friendly friends that there would be a "dead tree" at her Christmas party.

"I'm a forest activist and there's a dead tree in the middle of my house," Vance told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month.

"Geez, if I have a tree, why not nail the last snow leopard to the wall, too?" she said, referring to her concern for endangered species.

Vance complained that there was a lack of earth friendly farming methods to grow Christmas trees. "It's kind of like corn," she told the Chronicle. "It would be best to get an organic one, of course."

To counter these negative consequences, the Sierra Club's Antebi recommended the celebration of Hanukkah as an alternative to Christmas. "You've got to love a holiday that's all about energy efficiency and eating potato pancakes," Antebi said, "with only the finest organic potatoes, of course."

While drawing attention to the environmental impact of Christmas trees, the Sierra Club, however, risks alienating even some of its own supporters, like Pamela Janas of Pennsylvania, who wrote a letter to the editor of Sierra Magazine. In the letter, Janas noted that the Sierra Club's "negativity about having a Christmas tree seems unrealistic and insensitive."

She also scolded the organization for recommending that holiday revelers opt for "a storm-felled branch, or a piece of driftwood" instead of a Christmas tree. That suggestion, Janas wrote, is "ridiculous and insulting."

The city of San Francisco, attempting to show its sensitivity about the environment, is offering potted trees to homes in lieu of the traditional pine trees. Alternatives such as primrose, Brisbane box or fruitless olive trees are being offered for $90. After the holidays, the trees would be planted in cityscapes. The program was deemed a success after 100 alternative trees were scooped up by eco-conscious city residents, according to the Chronicle.

Rothbard of CFACT disagrees that Christmas trees, real or artificial, pose an ecological threat. Instead, he sees the whole debate as part of the environmental left's desire to make Americans feel guilty about their high standard of living.

"Since environmentalists believe that artificial plastic trees are verboten because of their petrochemical roots, maybe the best way for us to celebrate a truly earth-friendly Yuletide would be to gather in the chilly corners of our solar-powered huts, feast on a meal of soy figgy pudding, and exchange nothing but resolutions about how we'll do more environmental penance in the year to come," Rothbard said.

"Maybe it's no surprise the Grinch was colored green," he added, referring to the villain in children's Christmas classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Noting that an estimated 18 people can live off the amount of oxygen produced by one acre of Christmas trees, Rothbard touted the ecological benefits of the evergreens.

"Christmas tree farmers, like virtually all other professional farmers, use agricultural chemicals in a careful and prudent manner and Christmas tree recycling has become the norm in virtually all American communities," Rothbard said.

"Even the environmental publications like the San Diego Earth Times have pointed out that mulch from an abundance of recycled Christmas trees 'provide an aromatic ground cover that reduces soil erosion and deters weed growth,'" he added.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of U.S. homes displaying Christmas trees use the artificial variety. About 23 million real trees were sold in 2004, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Copyright 2005

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Some environmentalists are expressing angst during the Christmas season instead of joy, worried about what they view as the negative environmental impact of both real and artificial Christmas trees. The Sierra Club, in its publication Sierra Magazine, recommends that...
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Friday, 23 December 2005 12:00 AM
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