Supplies of an iconic holiday symbol withered across the nation this year, driving up prices and leaving some folks with sticker shock. Headlines bemoaned the shortage of Christmas trees, which saw modest price increases in some areas and sold for much higher than previous years in others. What happened to cause this unusual holiday problem?
While it’s true that weather changes caused by climate change made growing harder in some areas and forced some growers to close down their tree farms, the main culprit seems to be the recession of 2008 and 2009. As people struggled along with a struggling economy, many opted to buy less expensive fake trees in the late 2000s. That left a glut in the live tree market and farmers responded by planting fewer new trees. Due to their growing cycles, this year saw the first significant impacts of fewer trees that had reached preferred Christmas tree size available for the holiday market.
There’s a saying I’ve seen attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucious that says, “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees. If you’re plan is for 100 years, educate children.” The lesson here is both simple and profound. What we do today impacts the future in real and important ways.
I can’t think of a period of time during my own lifetime when that truth has been more poignantly demonstrated in our world than now, especially in the environment. We’re seeing and feeling the impact of historic and collective disregard for future consequences with climate change and pollution. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents — go back as many generations as your age dictates — did and allowed things for generations that have overburdened the environment we depend on. Some of them could have pleaded ignorance but over time the facts of the impacts of industrialization and all the broad and fast developments in unregulated industries and advancing technologies began to roll in. We don’t have an excuse anymore and because all the information we need is readily available, we stand in a much poorer light than our forebears. Collectively, and at the level of a national strategy, we’re just not changing course quickly enough to avert damage that our children and grandchildren will have to deal with.
I find it ironic that this lesson of the Christmas trees for our environment shares another strikingly similar image with the holiday. Christmas is the story of an innocent child coming to save a largely undeserving and ungrateful world. It’s also the children who are today standing up and raising their voices in an effort to save, not just themselves but the planet and whole human population — many of whom could be categorized as ungrateful for their efforts — from damage they themselves are innocent of causing.
I often hear people talking about how Christmas is the day we celebrate the gift of God in the birth of Jesus. If Christmas is more than just a holiday on the calendar, if it symbolizes a divine motivation for gratitude and the spirit of true good will toward all through gift giving and appreciating the gifts we receive, should that appreciation not extend beyond Christmas to every day we take a breath? And should we not, above all earthly gifts, appreciate the gift of the Earth itself — especially if given to us by a sovereign, loving God who took such pains to create its minutest and microscopic details, and its most grand and majestic features? And what about the Bible’s instruction to take care of it and use it well and wisely? We would expect our own children to heed such simple and reasonable instructions when given a costly and precious gift, would we not? And would we not be deeply offended if they treated it carelessly or disregarded it’s value?
Humble, grateful shepherds and wise men who determined to put their faith into action were the ones among all the thronging multitudes that found their way into the presence of the Son of God on that first Christmas recorded in the Bible. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for those of us still receiving the blessings of God to put a little of that humility, gratitude and the faith that leads to right doing into action in the way we choose to live our lives and walk upon this planet.
Have an Earthwise and happy Christmas!