DEAR READERS: The tiny saw-whet owl who was caught in the 75-foot Norway spruce now standing (and dying) in New York City’s Rockefeller Center has been rehabilitated from her terrifying ordeal and released back into the wild. She serves as a message to us all to reflect on her plight, and on why we kill trees to celebrate Christmas.
Climate change, disease and invasive insects have now destroyed more than half the white-bark pines -- trees that can live for a thousand years -- in the highlands of the Northwest. In light of this, and of the broader climate and extinction crises we now face, it may be more ecologically prudent and appropriate for all Christians to buy a live tree at Christmas, then later plant and decorate it at Easter.
For many, the real celebration is the winter solstice: the shortest day of the year and the longest night before the return of the sun, which some see as the god of life and light. Christmas celebrations should not include the sacrifice of trees, but rather the generosity of a truly Christian spirit through ahimsa: avoiding causing harm to any living being and helping those in need. This “agape” faith can connect everyone with the living world and the miracles of creation.
The Christmases that I can remember from 80 years ago were not commercialized to any significant degree. Today, with night-blinding, energy-wasting electric Christmas lights now covering many homes across America, and gifts wrapped in nonrecyclable plastics, I wonder if we will ever reconnect spiritually and recover the meaning and sanctity of life.
DEAR DR. FOX: After reading your latest article you are obviously just another anti-Trump eliteist (sic). You should stick to animals although I wonder about your expertise in that field. -- P.G., Manahawkin, New Jersey
DEAR DR. FOX: In your recent column, you said some are complaining because you are too political. I feel just the opposite. We don’t have house pets (or any animals), so I never read you until I noticed your ecological messages. Thank you and keep up the good work. -- D.R., Springfield, Missouri
DEAR P.G. AND D.R.: You and other readers of my column affirm how divided Americans are: some praising me for raising concerns about animal health, welfare and conservation -- and proposing some solutions -- while others lambaste me as an “anti-Trumper,” a liberal socialist and even a communist.
There is so much information surfacing now that scientists are investigating the interfaces among humans, nonhumans and the environment from the “One Health” perspective. The problem lies in translating this science-based data into effective public and political action when there is so much denial and anti-science sentiment.
This is nothing new to me. Back in the 1980s, after the Smithsonian magazine did a profile of my work investigating factory farms and feedlots, generating a lot of media attention, I was informed that a Texas state senator said that to get such publicity, I must have been supported by a foreign communist cell working to overthrow American agriculture.
Disinformation is all too commonplace today. The politicization of issues is one effective way to protect the economic status quo of vested interests, avoid responsibility and delay corrective action. For instance, the politicization of wearing masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 -- with millions asserting that enforcement would violate their personal freedoms -- illustrates the absurdity of a society where reason, common sense, empathy and personal responsibility are withering on the vine.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)