"T" is for Tinsel
by Robert T. Nanninga
Our resident eco-radical takes on the holidays in his own inimitable
n the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
tons of stuff beneath a dead pine tree.
Ho, Ho, Ho, everybody break out the credit cards, it's
Christmas time. First thing on the agenda is: purchase a tree. Here are
your options. Number one, you can do what our neighbor did, and drag the
"Oh so lifelike" artificial tree out of the attic, dust it off,
slap some lights on it, and call it a holiday. Option two, you can hop into
the station wagon and mosey on down to the local tree cemetery, and pick
out the perfect corpse to inspire seasonal cheer. Regardless of where it
was grown, locally, or from the Pacific Northwest, the tree is guaranteed
to become a messy fire hazard. "'Tis the Season to be jolly."
Your third option is to buy a live tree, preferably
an indigenous one that can be planted in your yard after the holidays. Living
trees can also be kept on the patio for next year. In this era of rapid
deforestation, it seems to me to be a waste of biomass to destroy oxygen
producing life forms for a decorating frenzy that is otherwise pointless.
While we are on the subject of live trees, there is
no reason to limit your selection to the conifer family. For the last two
years our household was graced with the beauty of a living, flowering Surinam
Cherry. Others go so far as to light a cactus with small Chili Pepper lights,
truly a Southwestern Christmas. Considering that Jesus was born in the desert,
it sort of makes sense to decorate a palm tree. Or there is the choice I'm
making this year, to go treeless. Radical, I know, but what can I say, being
the cutting edge kind of guy that I am. I feel trees are beautiful enough,
and there is no need to smother them in twinkle lights and glass balls.
And what is the word on that fake snow stuff? I heard
that once upon a time that wonderful contribution to the world was made
with asbestos, because it was considered important to have a fire-resistant
tree. Winter Wonderland or not, we all know what a drag it is to have your
house burn down with all those fabulous gifts inside. Is there anybody who
still thinks tinsel really looks like icicles? Tinsel is the perfect example
of how holiday spirit has progressed into madness. For the mere pleasure
of seeing a displaced tree sparkle like a cheesy disco, we waste precious
natural resources on a toxic manufacturing process, for a non-recyclable
product whose sole purpose is to hang around for a month before it makes
its way to the local landfill. All in the name of Jesus' birthday. If you're
dreaming of a white Christmas, go to Maine; it's lovely there this time
as anybody noticed the hypocrisy? Year round, we are
told to conserve energy, yet as soon as December 1st rolls around, otherwise
clear-thinking people drape everything in colored lights. Somehow I don't
think Mary and Joseph draped the manger in twinkle lights to celebrate Baby
J's birth. Call me Scrooge, but not only are all those lights a waste of
energy, they are also an annoying form of light pollution that also will
eventually make their way into the landfill.
Speaking of landfills, where do you think all the gifts
that your friends and loved ones can't live without end up? Not to mention
the fate of all that packaging, wrapping paper, mangled bows and ribbons,
greeting cards, party invitations, holiday plates, etc.
If the giving of gifts is to symbolize the offerings
of the three wise men, it seems we should mark the occasion with Gold, Frankincense,
and Myrrh. In ancient times all three were used in the magic of purification
and protection. If that is the case, how did we get to the point of the
mindless giving of senseless gifts? In a time when our planet needs protecting
as well as intense purification, the true gift to give our children would
be that of consuming less. Every bit of wrapping paper and gift boxes comes
from trees. Plastic toys take more from our children than they give. Plastic
production is responsible for tons of toxic emissions and runoff every year.
Truly the ghost of Christmas past.
This year, when making your list, check it twice to
make sure the gifts you plan to give are Earth friendly. Products made from
recycled sources are a good start. Educational toys that promote environmental
consciousness are a wonderful way to encourage learning and reverence for
our planet. For older family members, you can surprise them with a membership
in their local zoological society, purchase an acre of rainforest in their
name, or give a gift that keeps on giving to your friends and community,
membership in San Diego Earth Day.
When shopping for clothing, seek out organic, untreated
fabrics. Give clothing that doesn't depend on current fashions, so that
it can be worn in style for years to come. Fashion trends serve only the
manufacturing industry and tend to be extremely wasteful.
Need I mention how I feel about leather and other animal
products? Furs may be beautiful, but they serve the planet best when left
au natural, on the hoof. Pearls, abalone, and coral are all mined from the
seas. It's hard to imagine that there are still people on this planet who
consider ivory an appropriate gift. When giving jewelry, go to antique and
pawn shops. This is an excellent way to recycle the beauty and craftsmanship
of the past. Remember, all new jewelry encourages the destructive influences
of mineral extraction. Diamonds are a dirty business. This year, give a
gift that doesn't exploit third world cultures. Now is the time to stop
the wholesale consumption of the natural world.
When giving gifts this year, please take the time to
consider the true cost of your purchases. We all need to make the effort
to change the gift-giving tradition. Rather than wasting money and resources
on unnecessary consumer goods, we can give of ourselves in a meaningful
way. Time is the best gift you can give your children. Parents, instead
of spending hundreds of dollars on toys your kids will soon tire of, how
about spending that money taking the family camping for a week in some naturally
beautiful setting? Gift giving should nourish your loved ones, not diminish
I look forward to the day when we all take the lead
of the Little Drummer Boy and arrive with nothing but the gift of music.
I would like to thank my readers for giving me the gift
of their precious time. May all your Solstices be green. Blessed Be.
Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and
active member of the Green and environmental community.