This viewpoint was submitted as a rebuttal to last week’s Letter to the Editor by Alexander Vilagosh (Daily acted irresponsibly by running cartoon, 01/29/09).
In response to Elaine Morton’s recent cartoon (Nature Calls, 12/08/2008), it was irresponsible and dangerous for the Daily to publish a cartoon that anthropomorphized Christmas trees; this gives a false representation of the issues behind protecting the environment.
Christmas trees still lingering in the homes of Ann Arbor’s environmentally unconscious were purchased from a tree lot or cut from the pristine wilderness. Thus, these trees had no potential of ever being “human” – no more so than any tree you might stumble upon while taking your dog or significant other for a walk through our beloved Arboretum. By anthropomorphizing the trees, the cartoon implied that they have the feelings and emotions of a human. After one to five years of growth (the point at which many pine trees are cut to become Christmas trees) this is simply not the case.
While many would try to draw links between this debate and the global warming debate, they are two completely separate issues. It is unknown whether pine trees, or any type of tree for that matter, develop emotions to a level at which they can be considered human and have a right to life. But that point certainly does not occur within the one to five years before they are cut for the Christmas season. Of course there is also the fact that a tree could never “be human” anyway, though I do not believe the cartoonist was going for scientific accuracy.
Using artificial trees and turning off Christmas lights after the celebration of the Epiphany on Jan. 6 might quell the onslaught of climate change. But research on these issues requires the support of the general population so that appropriate funding can be allocated to these environmental programs. The good that can come from this research far outweighs the bad. Making Christmas trees have human characteristics – even in a cartoon – could influence understanding of the issue without factual basis. While I do not believe this was the intention of Elaine Morton, the cartoon’s potential effect on public perception should have been considered.
Chris Koslowski is an LSA Junior and Daily cartoonist.