To the Editor:
This letter to the editor is in reference to Sarah Vig’s article “A ‘Greener’ Christmas Tree” that appeared in the Winter edition of Appalachian Voice.
First of all, a word of thanks to Sarah for her article, those of us who have Christmas tree farms continue to work diligently to improve the quality of our trees and the farms we own, operate and often live on. Integrated Pest Management is a huge part of that. In recent consultation with Dr. Jill Sidebottom from North Carolina State (whom Sarah cites in her article), the figure you quoted regarding active ingredient insecticides/miticides of 4.1 pounds per acre has been cut in half in the nearly 10 years since that study was conducted and it continues to fall. In practical terms, the usage is now less than .0007 of an ounce of active ingredient per square foot per year. And it is worth noting that the Christmas tree industry follows established buffer guidelines that protect our streams and rivers. We acknowledge and support that ancient bit of wisdom that “we all live downstream.” Thank you sincerely for the opportunity to join the conversation.
On March 2, I joined Kentucky farmer-poet Wendell Berry, 350.org mastermind Bill McKibben, NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, Yale Forestry and Environmental Dean Gus Speth, environmental lawyer Bobby Kennedy, Grammy Award winner Kathy Mattea, Actress-activist Daryl Hannah, a host of other notables, and more than 2000 other informed, caring and committed individuals who gathered in Washington, D.C. Our assembly included an impressive number of young people, significant numbers of Native Americans whose land and people have for years been abused by oil and coal industries, and many residents from the coalfields of Appalachia whose land and people have also suffered great abuses—the stories of some of these “sacrificed” people literally moved me to tears. So young and old, abused and privileged, we streamed in from all parts of the U.S. and beyond to join together in an act of mass civil disobedience. We were willing– in an orderly and civil way– to disobey the law of the land in order to obey the mandates of our consciences. Frigid temperatures, chilling winds, and deep snow did not stop us.
Our presence succeeded in shutting down the coal-fired power plant that supplies heating and cooling for Congress for that day. The Capitol Power Plant was a symbol chosen to send a clear, unmistakable signal to Congress, to our president and to the world that we are committed to a dramatic shift away from polluting fuels that poison our people and compromise our planet. Climate experts such as Dr. Hansen warn us that the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (currently 379 parts per million and rising) is already so dangerously high that life as we know it on earth cannot be expected to continue unless we act immediately to reduce the level in our atmosphere to 350 ppm or less. Coal is the world’s single greatest source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Therefore, we cannot afford to let the political power and entrenched interests of the coal industry deter or delay us. It is imperative that the world quickly move beyond coal into a new age of renewable power, and the U.S. needs to be a leader in this crucial shift.
I have the clear sense that our rising up on that day was tangible evidence of the desire and demand of the people to rise up to a higher way of living on earth—to move beyond our current paradigm of extracting and expending resources from the earth and contending with the wastes we create in the process—to move beyond a paradigm that allows some groups of people to suffer excessively from the ill effects of such choices—to move beyond our current economy-based, growth-driven, resource-consuming, waste-generating, insensitive paradigm to a new paradigm, a new way of life that can be sustained by all people everywhere without harm to our earth, without harm to ourselves.
I believe that one day we will look back—we will look back on today and wonder how we could have ever polluted and poisoned our earth and our people. One day we and those after us will look back and recognize that the recent event in Washington was a small part of an uprising which is itself one more step in our civilization’s awkward and glorious journey toward Justice—toward Justice and Fullness of Life—for All. So I invite everyone to join together to creatively, thoughtfully take whatever risks we may be required to take as we rise up—and we will rise up, wave after wave of us, we will rise up—into a new tomorrow—a tomorrow in which we live as if we truly cherish this precious planet and all who live and move and have their being hereon.