Two articles from the Sunday NYTimes

AIDS has peaked. It's not cured, it still afflicts millions of people worldwide, but the number of new infections seems to have peaked in 1998.


The joys (or lack thereof) of a green Christmas.

...the 2.6 billion holiday cards sold each year in the United States could fill a landfill the size of a football field 10 stories high, or that those conventional lights on the Christmas tree contribute up to nine times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as the leaner-burning L.E.D. models; or that some Christmas-tree growers use as many as 40 different pesticides, as well as chemical colorants, on their crops.

I found this amusing:

Ms. Perla said she read her children her book — in which Santa’s home at the North Pole is melted by global warming — before bed...

Some easy ways to go green this holiday season, though they might not seem as festive as usual:

  • Don't mail holiday cards and photos. Use e-mail and digital photos instead. With the money you save on cards and postage, purchase a carbon offset and divide it among all your usual card recipients, making a note of it in your e-mail.

  • Use L.E.D. Christmas tree lights, or, if you're willing to do without, just use ornaments.

  • Instead of a real tree, use a fake one. Miss the real tree smell? Buy some pine tree scents. Or make a popcorn strand which will give your living room a pleasant if different scent for the holidays.

  • Instead of cranking up your heater, wear a sweater (something I heard from my mom many a time in my HVAC-deprived youth; she was way ahead of this green movement).

  • Save paper; don't giftwrap or use lots of packing tissue which will just be tossed after being torn up. Instead, use toilet paper which can be re-used afterwards in the bathroom (your lactose-intolerant grandfather will appreciate it after he has one Christmas cookie too many).

One of my coworkers has suggested on more than one occasion that the perfect carbon offset is to kill someone roughly the same age as you who has a similar carbon footprint. Somehow I don't think that passes the "peace on earth and goodwill towards men" holiday theme, but maybe file that away for the new year, when you're making resolutions.