As I drive through suburbia this Christmas season I see home after home decked out in lights and decorations. In some neighborhoods it's like a contest to see who can string the most lights. Each year we have 2 homes that have extra power pumped in from the local utility. They have so many lights that you can probably see them from space.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting decorators down. On the contrary, our whole family enjoys the lights and every year we make it a point to drive neighborhoods and end at the 2 high-light homes. It's just that I wonder where the balance of holiday tradition and consumerism lies.
On the one hand, Christmas is great for the kids. It's fun to see them excited about getting stuff they have wanted all year, yes we're typical parents and always tell them to "put it on the Christmas list" when they ask us for big ticket items. Seeing them unwrap presents in front of the brightly lit fake tree is a joy to watch and gives us a sense of satisfaction knowing that we can make the kids happy for even a moment.
On the other hand, I think that while we are making the kids happy, we are also stealing a bit of their future. We are burning fossil fuels to power the extra lights and produce the things on their wish lists. That produces emissions and uses resources that they will not have when they grow up. So are we really doing them a favor by using their resources and polluting the world they will inherit?
I guess if I were an optimist I would say that we will find new energy sources and ways to clean the air, land and water during their life-times. Unfortunately I'm an optimistic realist and think that technology will solve some problems, but that it has it's limits.
Too many of us, world-wide are living a lifestyle that this planet cannot sustain and our children will pay the price in the not so distant future. They will breathe increasingly polluted air, drink dirtier water and pay higher prices for everything manufactured or grown.
So here's my dilemma...
If the future is bleak, shouldn't we live for the moment? But if we live for the moment, the bleak future moves closer that much faster.
What do to do? I'm not that selfless but somewhere deep inside I feel bad about saying go with the flow and live for the moment. Let the kids (and everyone else) enjoy today! It's the only day that's guaranteed and if tomorrow turns out to be as harsh as I expect, then I'd hate to not have enjoyed the good times.
It's in our nature to take all that we can get and live for today. Why fight basic human nature or worry about what may or may not be.