How the holiday season has changed over time? Furthermore, how can we tie the environment into religious holidays? Chanukah, and more noticeably Christmas has been a holiday that has drastically transformed in the course of history. It is mainly about the gift giving than celebrating the religious aspect of both these holidays.
Christmas and Chanukah feed a unique consumerist experience. Money is rapidly shaping the course of history. Even with the economic setbacks we have seen in America in the last five years, this holiday is going strong. "A Gallup Poll found that Americans expect to spend an average of $764 on Christmas gifts, $50 more than a year ago" (Keen, 2011). Those who predict spending during the holidays estimated spending on Christmas to increase 3.1% leading to a raise totaling of $3.4 billion this holiday season (Keen, 2011). This consumerism and need for happiness as defined by society has turned deadly. In 2008, on Black Friday, a holiday created by America in order to obtain the most savings for the holiday season, a typically chaotic day at Wal-Mart turned deadly (Rosenbloom, 2008). At a Wal-Mart on Long Island, a worker was trampled to death because of the intensity of anxious customers entering the store early on Black Friday (Rosenbloom, 2008). Four others, including a pregnant woman were taken to the hospital due to this catastrophic event (Rosenbloom, 2008).
Our excessive impact on waste is a huge environmental issue that is present due to these holiday seasons and our consumerism in general. One type of waste that America is very known for is our municipal waste, more commonly known as garbage or trash (EPA, 2010). From 1980 to 2005, the U.S. MSW generation increased 60 percent. That's a grand total of 246 million tons of trash created in 2005." (EPA, 2010) According to the University of Illinois, Americans chop down approximately 31 million Christmas trees each holiday season (Loposer, 2009). Shockingly, "The average price of a Christmas tree in 2007 was $41.50, meaning that we hypothetically spent around $1.3 billion in order to slaughter a bunch of helpless trees" (Loposer, 2009).
Relating the holiday season to Noah's Ark, it would appear that the greediness we live in today is something that "the creator" would punish us. The story of Noah's Ark is a "powerful story of human survival in the face of a climate-related catastrophe but also a moral tale in which the flood is seen as divine punishment for a generation of humans whose wickedness was such that it affected the life of all flesh on earth, and endangered even the earth…" (Northcott, 72, 2007). Our recreation and redefinition of the holiday season should be seen as disturbing the restraints set on us by "divine power" (Northcott, 73, 2007). The amount of environmental disasters caused in the last few decades are most likely caused by human activities and we must ponder the idea that a higher being is involved with giving us this a type of environmental wake-up-call. We are all at threat this holiday season because we have lost sight of, "acknowledging the sacred character of creation and recognizing divine limits on human action with their reproduction and work within creation not result in its destruction and pollution (Northcott, 73 2012). Our consumption patterns, especially around a religiously seasonal time have seen negative impacts of climate change that are worth considering this holiday season.
Ecotheology cannot be a standalone environmental framework; there is too much taboo that comes with religion to make this an independently successful framework. However, as seen above, there are some strong components of the morals behind religion that can be transferred into environmental progress. Furthermore, the environment could and should be used as a medium to connect people all across the world, from the believers, nonbelievers and believers of different faiths, this connection could provide for a transparent, sustainable, and more peaceful future.
Keen, Judy. "Just Say No to Christmas?" USA Today. Gannett, 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
Loposer, John. "How Many Christmas Trees Do We Cut Down Each Year?" Holidash News. N.p., Dec. 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.
Northcott, Michael S. A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2007. Print.
Rosenbloom, Stephanie. "Wal-Mart Worker Trampled to Death by Frenzied Black Friday Shoppers." The Seattle Times. 29 Nov. 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
Hi! My name is Meri McGloin. I am very interested in becoming more involved from a hands-on perspective in the peace-promoting / environmental world. I have done a lot of reading and research but am ready to take action now!