Leiden Law Blog

The abandoned Christmas trees

The abandoned Christmas trees

Around New Year the streets are always littered with wilting Christmas trees. Some people have been careful enough to put their old trees near the refuse bins, but many trees seem to have been carelessly dumped outside. Looking at these abandoned trees, it’s hard to imagine that they had a place of pride in some sitting room not so long ago. They are treated far worse than the regular waste, which we usually do not throw outside whenever we feel like it.  

The fact that the trees are literally thrown out the door or from the balcony, and left there to wither on the street or in a park, shows that some people are apparently not ashamed of themselves to do this or afraid of getting a fine for doing it. There must be no law to prevent the dumping of trees on the pavement – no  effective law anyway with a sanction to prohibit people doing this – for as long as I can remember around New Year the streets have always been littered with abandoned trees. So it’s probably not considered a crime as such, although I almost feel that it should be. I know that nowadays in some places community programs have been set up for children to collect the trees – probably as a way to deal with the recurring problem of abandoned Christmas trees, which is a good thing – but this is clearly not yet the case everywhere.

I think the sight of these abandoned trees on the grass or on the pavement is a very sad sight. It’s evidence of a terrible mentality, a bad example for children and it shows a profound disrespect for nature. In our time, with all the persistent media attention on the financial crisis, we might forget that there is a far more threatening ecological crisis facing us. The abandoned trees show that the seriousness of the ecological crisis has definitely not reached everybody yet. But this is not so strange if we notice how much focus there is on the economy. Even during the Christmas period we could hardly lift our spirits above the economic doom and gloom: all through December the news kept on informing us about the economic side of Christmas, how our spending compared with the year before. It’s perhaps understandable that in the process the Christmas tree itself is also reduced to a mere commodity – a commodity that we can throw out when it has served its purpose.

I know it’s only a minority who abandon their trees. And I know that fir trees are specially planted for Christmas, and I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t put a cut down tree in their house. But at least they could keep on treating the tree that served such an important role in their household for two or three weeks with some respect.

It was the terrible sight of the abandoned Christmas trees that inspired me years ago to change to using an artificial tree. One of the advantages is that we needn’t get rid of it in the New Year. It has recently been dismantled and is now waiting patiently in the attic to be re-used next Christmas. This tree was never alive, but somehow it seems more so than a real tree, as it has joined the cycle of the seasons. And it definitely gets treated respectfully!
 

2 Comments

Wim Bonis
Posted on January 16, 2013 at 15:35 by Wim Bonis

I fully agree with Kevin Walsh that trees belong outside. But the trees I like to see there are living trees, rooted in the earth, growing – and not dead rootless trees, carelessly thrown out and left there for others to be cleaned up.

Kevin Walsh
Posted on January 15, 2013 at 00:02 by Kevin Walsh

I don’t think the abandoned trees are so bad! It is the decorations, the lights,  and the magical and religious symbolism that imbued them with life whilst they dwelt in their temporary home. Stripped of all those things, they return to the lifeless tree they were when they were bought. What’s being recycled is the spirit of Christmas - the trees are just a frame for displaying it. And trees…..they belong outside!

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