“We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.”
In my neighborhood of Astoria, the most clear-cut (insert rimshot here) sign that Santa season is fully upon us is the sudden appearance of Xmas tree lots hawking pines and firs newly separated from their roots.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 25-30 million “real” Xmas trees are sold in the US every year and roughly 100,000 people are employed in the Xmas tree industry. Ninety-eight percent of all American Xmas trees are grown on the more than 21,000 Xmas tree farms. It takes about 7-10 years for an Xmas tree to mature, and for every harvested tree, 2-3 seedlings are planted.
Think of it like factory farming for trees.
Retail tree lots are a New York City tradition that dates back to 1851. Thirty years after that, one of Thomas Edison’s assistants conjured up the prescient notion of hanging electric lights on Xmas trees. By 1890, such lights were being mass-produced and tree lightings would eventually become the ceremony of choice for those who don’t mind occupying triple-digit electricity bills.
It’s easy to see why just about everyone loves “real” Xmas trees: the trimming parties, the look in a child’s eyes when catching sight of the lights and tinsel, and most of all, the smell. But there’s another durable American tradition that eventually marks the unofficial end to all holiday spirit. I’m speaking, of course, about the sight of dead trees piled in the garbage.
Just a few weeks earlier, those same trees were leaning almost upright with price tags dangling from their branches. Now they lie horizontal, a few tenacious strands of tinsel clinging to the razor-sharp needles. Since we’re taught to perceive Xmas trees as disposable, they now become someone else’s problem.
Sure, we’ve evolved somewhat to the practice of recycling of post-holiday trees but that doesn’t change the root of this situation: Some 450,000 acres of land are set aside to plant and grow trees destined to be cut down and sold for about ten days’ use before being unceremoniously tossed out onto the pavement.
This Xmas—for starters—say no to fir…
A much more recent form of holiday tradition is the “eco-friendly” shopping guide. Not that long ago, such advice was rare and often relegated to obscure websites and publications but this baby step forward is not without major issues. For example, I recall a corporate media article that cheerfully opened with: “Shopping for a tree-hugging friend who’s got everything?”
Can I get a mic check?
While it’s kinda good that mainstream publications are suggesting their readers opt for gifts made from recycled materials, let’s be 100% clear: By definition, your “tree-hugging” friend does not have and would not want “everything” and will most likely be thrilled with a used, cruelty-free gift or no gift or perhaps best of all: an invite to mark the holiday together at your local occupation.
So when those giant chain stores try to make it “easy” for you to purchase “earth-friendly” products, please remind yourself that the goal is not to replace consumerism with green consumerism. The goal is, well…to change our culture from the ground up and choices with the greatest impact are, by definition, not easy.
Creating sustainable cultural change goes well beyond de-occupying the holiday frenzy and while the antagonistic relationship between money green and environmental green may be where ideologies clash, it’s also where some of the biggest social changes can potentially occur.
Even so, challenging the anti-nature proclivities of multi-national corporations or military monoliths remains a daunting task that requires the kind of deep solidarity and individual soul-searching being inspired by the burgeoning Occupy movement.
The gang at Affluenza.org explain:
“We recycle our garbage. We vote greener. We buy sleek, new hybrid cars and fill our houses with energy-efficient light bulbs. And we put our money and faith in the brave and ingenious technologies that will rescue us from the whirlwind. But it won’t be enough. Because this is not, fundamentally, a technological problem. Nor is it, fundamentally, a political problem. This is a problem of appetites, and of narcissism, and of self-deceit. The planet is breaking, and it is breaking under the weight of our hunger for more. To reform the world, we must first reform ourselves.”
As we are witnessing, a change in our commodity culture mindset can happen in a flash and this development could be a giant step toward tackling the planet’s most pressing problems.
“Money can’t buy life.”
Those were Bob Marley’s last words.
Our mission is to make sure they aren’t everyone’s last words.
We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…
#De-OccupyFir. #De-OccupyHolidayTraditions. #OccupyCulturalChangeNow.