When Holiday Tradition Compromises the Earth

We recycle.

We compost.

We eat organic food.

I weep at the plight of the polar bears and I pray fervently every time I spot an animal that has lost its battle with an oncoming car.

And tonight, we smiled and laughed and forked over what was probably entirely too much money so that I could have the pleasure – and the guilt – of throwing this into the garbage can:


Even as the lovely man at the fire station carried our tree over to the sawhorses, I cringed. There was that oh-so-clever contraption that made enormous evergreens fit into humble family station wagons. We barely got any needles in the car and the trunk door actually closed. A gorgeous, full seven foot tree stands in our living room and the netting that will languish forever in a distant landfill sits in our trash after its brief, but ostensibly vital, use.

Life is full of constant compromise. A good relationship is all about meeting your lover halfway. A treaty between differing factions can only be reached through mutual give and take. There is the ideal, and then there is the reality.

Most of us cannot get to work without contributing to global warming in some way, even if we hate that our carbon footprint is growing in leaps and bounds. Those of us who do not grow our own food are so often stuck feeling contrite that the avocado and everything else in our salad has racked up more frequent flier miles than we have. But still we get in our cars, and still we eat lunch that was born in South America, and still we make a million little choices every day that mean the earth is forced to bear more and more abuse all the time.

Obviously we have to reconcile ourselves with our impact on the environment if we continue to live mainstream Western lives, but when are we compromising too much? I cut up that wretched Christmas tree netting as much as I could so that birds and other animals could never become entangled in it, but I am really doubting it will biodegrade even after Santa has made another million year’s worth of trips around the globe.

We work on our expanding our consciousness and enlivening our spiritual selves through meditation and prayer. We try to compromise as little as possible when it comes to the welfare of our souls and the love that we share with others. How do we find the strength to apply this sort of rigor to our love of our Mother, the Earth?

Taking the easy way out when it comes to personal awakening never works. Why do we continue to believe that thinking about the our beautiful, singular planet some of the time could ever sustain the most constant friends that we have, the ground beneath our feet and the air that fills our lungs?

I ask these question because I really have one of the answers, but I have all of the symptoms of being yet another guilt ridden drain on the planet.  In so many cases, awareness is 75% of the battle.  I am pretty sure that being aware of what is in the garbage isn’t helping anyone.

How do we begin to let this awareness really shape our behavior and make the external changes that, in this instance, are every bit as important as the changes we are going through within?

naked tree!

3 thoughts on “When Holiday Tradition Compromises the Earth

  1. brandi December 10, 2008 / 9:18 am

    it’s a profound question. a needed question.

    it’s one I struggle with too.

    but somehow the reminder makes the choices a little easier.

  2. Lisa December 10, 2008 / 7:13 pm

    It is so heartbreaking – I am constantly finding things like your netting cropping up even in the most careful and conscientious of the choices I make. It is hard to get away from the plastic of the world – I used to have a vow not to buy anything in plastic ever, but now everything comes in plastic so that I have had to bend that rule even.
    You order a coffee in a mug, you specify you are only patronizing if they will give you a mug, then the harried kid behind the counter automatically pours it in a styrofoam cup without thinking while you have your head turned (OK I was probably looking at the cookies). The cup is used now, no point in him throwing it out, so you just take it. These little things happen day after day, I so hope we all learn our collective lesson before we lose this beautiful planet!
    Thanks for the great post – can you tell this touches a nerve with me by my SUPERLONG comment?!

  3. girlwhocriedepiphany December 12, 2008 / 7:56 am

    Dear Brandi and Lisa.
    Hearing that you two go through similar trouble as you try to reconcile convenience and conscience and what is considered acceptable by everyone else, I realize that our awareness is still a big part of the battle. We need to realize that it is amazing that we even consider the Styrofoam cup, because for most, those are just the acceptable props of daily life. I know that worry is not action, but we need to give ourselves a little credit that we are gearing up to take new steps each day just by being alert to what it means to tread on this earth.

    thanks and blessings,

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