By Anders Lorenzen
I have never questioned the concept of the Christmas tree, it was a feature of Christmas that was just always there. However, this Christmas I feel differently. This year, I don’t feel I can justify cutting down a tree, bringing it inside, watching it slowly dying and once Christmas is over pop it outside our front door where someone will eventually remove it to either burn it or discard it at a landfill site.
In a year where we in the western world ‘woke up’ to climate change and have for example criticised the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for making mass deforestation easier, it is problematic that we are conducting our own ‘deforestation’ for the sole purpose of a social ritual.
The Christmas trees we harvest are young and therefore the stems are not big enough to do anything useful with apart from burning them for heat and energy. If we kept the trees and preserved the wood I might be of another opinion as it could represent a good carbon capture technology ie. the CO2 would still be stored in the tree. But instead, all the millions of discarded trees each Christmas literally go up in smoke and the CO2 released ends up in the atmosphere, contributing to the climate crisis.
Another issue is that Christmas trees are farmed intensively due to the surge in demand for them. Large swathes of Christmas tree farms exist in all countries that celebrate Christmas. Due to their popularity, they are grown and farmed in areas where they are non-native species. Chemicals and pesticides are also used which impact everything growing in the surrounding areas.
Tree planting has been touted as one of the solutions to the climate crisis. But Christmas trees have literally become a crop whose sole purpose is to entertain humans for a week in December.
If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis perhaps Christmas trees should be next on the chopping block.