75-year-old tree dies for holiday cheer
I really love this time of year, but there is one thing that gets my goat, one question I ask every year. How is chopping down a decades-old tree and dressing it up in lights for the holidays considered “green.”
Let me start by saying I love this time of the year. From October through the Christmas holiday season, it’s just my favorite time of year.
When I was growing up in South Jersey, my parents always struggled financially, yet we always had a big Christmas, and Santa was always good to us. It was my parents’ favorite time of year, too, especially my mom’s.
I listen to Christmas music in the car. I display my collection of nutcrackers every year (I call them my Yuletide army). I even believe in Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas, not necessarily a jolly guy in a red suit.
I tell you all this not to make you think I’m an overly sentimental fool (you can, it’s ok), or to garner some emotional reaction to the halcyon memories of a young boy, but to set the stage.
You see there is one thing every year that really frosts my agates, as my father-in-law would say. I come into the newsroom every year while this travesty is playing out on TV and start to complain about it. I’m sure my colleagues love it.
No, it’s not the indignity of the suffering in other parts of the world juxtaposed with the commercialism of waiting for “Black Friday,” or even Thanksgiving this year to start our annual spend fest, while others in need go without. For the record, I too will be in line at midnight this year on Friday for a new video game system.
I also don’t think of myself as a “tree-hugger,” but I do believe in protecting our environment and not trashing the planet — wait does that make me a “tree-hugger”?
I guess that really brings us to the point of all this: the annual spectacle of the giant Christmas trees in New York and Washington, D.C.
That, dear reader, is what I have a problem with around this time every year. You can call me a hypocrite if you want for buying into the whole Christmas/shopping/consumerism thing on one hand and decrying this “celebrated” national tradition on the other.
I just think it’s wrong to go out and get this majestic old tree that wasn’t bothering anyone, chop it down, and drag it across the country, just to be put up in a big city, strung with tens of thousands of bulbs and have some hip-hop star gyrate around its base while we celebrate the holiday season.
I mean come on, lets take a closer look at this. The tree sacrificing itself for this smorgasbord of holiday joy is a 12-ton Norway spruce, 76 feet tall, 47 feet in diameter, and here’s the kicker, it was 75 years old! 75 years old! Let that sink in for a moment. That’s 75 years of our country’s history. Hell, some of you may not even have relatives that old. Here is just a sample of some of the history that tree lived through:
1951 American post-war occupation of Japan ends
1953 Korean War ends
1957 Sputnik launched
1958 Dalai Lama flees Tibet
1959 Fidel Castro establishes communist dictatorship in Cuba
1960 Communist North Vietnam starts war against Capitalist South
1961 Berlin Wall built
1963 US President John F Kennedy shot
1974 Watergate Scandal
1980 Ronald Reagan becomes US President
1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station explodes
1989 Exxon Valdez oil-spill
1991 USSR breaks up – end of Soviet era
2000 Vermont passes HB847, legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples
2001 Attack on World Trade Center
You may have heard (because they make sure to let us know all the time) that the tree is being adorned with “green” LED lights, 45,000 of them to be exact. I guess that gets to the crux of all this, how can we call killing a 75-year-old tree and displaying it with green lights … well … “green”? In fact, last year’s tree survived for 80 years and Superstorm Sandy, only to be chopped down and made to face the same fate as this year’s tree.
Here are some interesting stats I pulled from the inter-webs to think about while you breathe in that cool autumn wind perhaps while visiting the tree in person this year:
“A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings.”— McAliney, Mike. Arguments for Land Conservation: Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December, 1993
“One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.”—New York Times
“A 100-ft tree, 18” diameter at its base, produces 6,000 pounds of oxygen.”—Northwest Territories Forest Management
“On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.”—Environment Canada, Canada’s national environmental agency
Wow, kind of scary. Thank goodness we only do this once a year! I hope I didn’t depress you too much, you can still enjoy your turkey, pumpkin pie, and some football, I know I will. But I will still wince every time they show that poor tree standing there in the cold, waiting for the wood chipper to be brought in and take it down one final time.
After all that, you may be saying to yourself, “Self!, what does this genius expect to happen?” Well, I just can’t believe in this world of smart phones, space stations, air-less tires (they are being perfected right now), and the other myriad technological innovations, that we can’t come up with a natural looking, fake tree to put up for the masses to enjoy!? I just don’t get it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to my basement and check the lights for my tree this year. There is always a set that won’t light, and prepare to head out to the tree farm to pick this years victim for my living room. I know, I know — you don’t even have to say it — but at least I get it from a farm where it was grown for this purpose. So perhaps ignorantly, it makes me feel better about it, if a bit conflicted.
WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.