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Tis a reason to buy nothing

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 28, 2008


Regular readers of this column know I am not a Hallmark holiday sort of guy. Not really "anti-Christmas," it's more accurate to describe me as pro environment, Christmas has never occurred to me as ecologically friendly.

Christmas is a weird cultural construct that merges the Christian birth myth with pre-Christian paganism, and full frontal consumerism. So weird it would seem Santa, elves, flying reindeer, and toy shops where created to encourage debt and destruction.

I stopped dreaming of a green Christmas years ago.

From the dead trees festooned with glass and plastic, to the wrapping paper that will be ripped from gifts as part of the gift giving ritual, no matter how you look at it, Christmas is a season of anti-environmental excess.

The amount of waste generated by holiday merry making, is an ecological time bomb. From the rape of natural resources, to the industrial pollution resulting from the manufacturing of unnecessary consumer goods, 95% of Christmas presents will end up in a landfill.

Christmas is anti-tree. In 2007, over 31 million trees were killed in the name of market driven sentimentality. a price tag of 1.3 billion dollars.

And no Virginia, artificial trees are not more environmentally benign than real trees. 85% of artificial trees are made in China from metals and plastics. The plastic material, typically PVC, is known as a potential source of hazardous lead. The potential for lead poisoning is such a threat fake trees made in China are required to have a warning label by California Prop 65.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 17.4 million artificial trees were purchased as well in 2007, at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars.

And then there is all the stuff stuffed under the aforementioned Christmas trees, the majority of which is also made in China. All consumer goods have to come from somewhere and be made from something. X-mas gifts also require fossil fuels to deliver them to the intended recipients.

Christmas lights although magically twinkly are also a waste of energy and natural resources. Call me a curmudgeon but the more lights neighborhoods and communities put out the less enchanting they become. Wasting energy so people can "Ooo" and "Ahhh" at your wastefulness is so 20th century it's sad.

This is not to say people shouldn't gather with family and friends to feast and make music, they should. They should also worship as they see fit. Holidays should be about community not consumption. This year with the global economy in free fall, Californians would be best served by giving each other ethical restraint and economic frugality along with yuletide cheer. With a housing crisis and credit crunch undermining cultural stability, spending less and saving more is the only sensible choice.

Which brings me to next week's column. How would Jesus celebrate Christmas?

Any thoughts?

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