Hug A Tree…While You Still Can

Yesterday was Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees.

It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, a fine excuse to pop lots o’ pomegranate seeds and shlep my Shalom Schoolers out to the square for some arms-to-trunk action on an oak tree, but for some reason this year I don’t feel so rah-rah about it all.

Judaism teaches us that we are responsible for our environment, and so many of us do our very best. We wash out the cream cheese container and put it the plastics pile for recycling, we buy organic produce that comes from a sustainable farming system instead of the stuff blanketed in pesticides and flown across the world, maybe we even compost our dinner scraps and take five-minute showers and bring own our bags to the store every single time.

On an individual level, most of the people I know deeply care about the planet, take responsibility for reducing their waste and would sacrifice just about anything to ensure a healthy, clean planet for their children and grandchildren and beyond. If there’s anything more we could do to stave off climactic chaos, we’d do it, right?

The thing is, it wasn’t individuals who created the disaster — of biblical proportions, according to some — that we’re headed for. It’s the cumulative effect of corporate greed, bad governmental policy, industrial short-sightedness and a cultural tide of consumption that reusing a Ziploc bag can do very, very little to reverse.

Even James Lovelock, the superscientific dude who hypothesized the concept that the planet is its own organism and warned about global warning 40 years ago, says there’s not a whole lot that can be done at this point — we’re basically just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

“Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” ~ James Lovelock

I know, I know, I’m a downer today (if you really want to get depressed, check out the list of the world’s worst human-generated disasters.) Maybe I took yesterday’s JEA viewing for the kids of Dr. Suess’s “The Lorax” too seriously — the part when the last truffula tree falls always brings a catch to my throat — but I can’t help but feel a bit hopeless about it all. It seems to me the that the mustachioed munchkin’s legacy of “UNLESS” is going to come with a much bigger cost than any of us are prepared for.

But you know what? Our tradition says we should plant a tree, and more trees couldn’t hurt. And I’m already in the habit of recycling and carrying my own bags to the market. I might as well finish the grant I’m writing to fund an organic garden at the kids’ school. Even if it doesn’t matter a lick of the fire that’s gonna come up from hell, it’ll keep me busy.

Ironically, it’s beautiful day in Savannah — that’d be Zone 8b for those of you in the planting mood after all this doom n’ gloom. Not too cold, perfect for turning some soil in the backyard to prepare for some seeds we’ve gotten started in the kitchen window. Think I’ll roust myself out of this apocalyptic torpor and grab a trowel.

Sheesh, if we’ve only got 20 good years left, I’d sure rather spend it outside, with the trees and my kids and the birds and the bees, than anywhere else.

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