Sunday, December 23, 2018

Not My Usual Christmas Rant

Every year around this time, I write a blog post about Christmas. Often it is not a happy piece. It would be an understatement to say that I am ambivalent about Christmas.

I love being with family at Christmas. I enjoy cooking and eating the traditional turkey dinner. I like choosing special gifts for people I love. I like the pretty lights, and the woodsy smell of a Douglas fir tree in the house.

But every year, at some point I return home from the mall, after hours of being jostled by hoards of frantic hollow-eyed shoppers clawing through bins of useless consumer garbage looking for something for those hard-to-buy-for friends or family who already have everything. And I say, “This is it! I am not doing Christmas this year! No presents, no Christmas cards, no tree, no turkey! I resign!”

I reflect on the fact that in the hyper-capitalistic society that we live in, corporations will do anything to get my money, from tracking and stealing my digital data, to constantly flashing ads in my face, to building obsolescence into material goods so that it will be easier to compel me to purchase the same thing again and again, to insinuating that I am not a worthy person if I do not own X, Y, or Z. Christmas has become the ultimate consumer event, and every year I swear that I will not get duped into doing a consumer Christmas again. And then I do. Again. Because I want my dear ones to be happy. Because they might think that I do not love them if I don't give them stuff. Because it is easier to pretend that everything is just A-Okay -- if I don't notice or think about our global crisis, it isn't happening. La, la, la, la, la.


I feel despair that the human race seems to be unable to take the necessary steps to adapt in order to save itself and other living things on earth in the face of mounting evidence that global warming is leading us along a trajectory toward a peak extinction event. Some scientific models predict that it will happen around about the time that my future great grandchildren reach adulthood. That is not a very long time from now. Yet, despite knowing that we need to keep mean temperature gain to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we actually *increased* our fossil fuel usage by 3% last year.

(Note: that is not a gain of 1.5 degrees from now that we are permitted. Mean global temperature already has risen 1 degree from pre-industrial times. So we have only half a degree left to go, or maybe 1 degree if we can accept the devastation that a looser goal of 2 degrees gain would entail.)

I am part of the problem. The one gift that I would most like to be able to give to my children, grandchildren, and future great grandchildren is the possibility of surviving and thriving on this beautiful planet Earth. A long and happy life. But every time I buy another piece of plastic, I am subtracting from their chances.

Whoops!

I didn't mean to rant about how Christmas has become a corporate money-making event with the sole aim of making a tiny elite even more powerful and extremely rich, at the expense of all future life on this planet. I was just going to write a couple of sentences about why I rant at Christmastime in order to get it off my chest, and then move on to happy thoughts.

Deep breaths. Happy thoughts.

We are travelling north this holiday season to spend time with our northern (adult) children, grandchildren, family and friends. Yay! Also, before beginning our travels, we had some really special moments with our southern BC kids, grandkids, and local friends.

Going North for Christmas

This year, Rob and I chopped our Christmas consumption down. With some dear friends and family, we have mutually decided that we will no longer exchange gifts. What we are doing instead is making time to spend more time with them doing fun things together -- which Rob and I can do now that we are both retired!

For those with whom we do exchange gifts, I have mostly chosen things that are artist-made, or edible/drinkable, or items of practical necessity, or educational, or gifts of experience, or donations to the most needy people on earth. So, I have still been able to have fun choosing special things for people, but have spent very little on consumer crap that imperils our future. Instead, gifts like these serve a double duty. (Confession: however, a couple of toys for the grandchildren do not fit these parameters.)

This week, we spent 29 hours camped in our dark house without power. A massive windstorm knocked out power to many parts of Vancouver Island and the lower mainland in southwestern BC. We were lucky as we have both a wood stove and a natural gas fireplace, so we weren't cold. Also, we are well equipped for camping, so we had a way to cook and MAKE COFFEE. Our power came back on, eventually. But, as of this afternoon, 70,000 people were in their 3rd day still without power.

Eating Dinner with Candles and a Headlamp


This is storm has been called unprecedented. It is the second extreme weather event that I personally have been impacted by in the last 6 months. The previous one was in August, during which Vancouver Island experienced a record drought, and huge areas of the province were engulfed by wild fires. Our home was not threatened, but for six weeks we breathed thick choking smoke.

Whoops. I'm heading back into rant mode. I need to find a way to start making a real difference to support global sustainability, beyond personally cutting back on shopping. That is one of my goals for 2019.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.





16 comments:

  1. Bravo, bravo, bravo! Add into the mix the mental health implications of people striving to create the perfect Christmas and landing themselves with a load of debt into the bargain. (Though I AM looking forward to Christmas for extra time with those I love.)

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    1. Thanks Anabel. It is perplexing to me how we can see that something is not good for us and yet find it so very difficult to extricate ourselves from cultural patterns and belief systems - even when our lives are at stake. I am not just talking about others here. My own behaviours are hard to change. Yet as much as I do manage to change, it is not going to be enough when it comes to the consequences of global warming. As an educator, I have to find a way to influence others as well.

      I hope you have a wonderful time atChristmas with the ones you love.

      Jude

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  2. Hi, Jude - Enjoy your time out north this holiday with your children, grandchildren, family and friends who are there. Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and joyful year ahead. You do make a definite difference!

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    1. Hi Donna. I hope you have a fabulous Christmas with your family this year. I look forward to seeing you in the new year.

      Jude

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  3. Well said, Jude. I wish more people would understand, or at least realize, the implications of our selfish actions and desires to always want more, better and bigger, without thinking about the environment. Or, even better, that they would act upon it! I only have a handful of friends who would shop in stores, bringing their own containers and doing anything to cut down on plastic.

    As for ourselves, when we lived on our boat, plastic was barely part of our lives as we bought local produce and kept garbage to an absolute minimum. These days, we don’t produce a lot of garbage either, as long as we can recycle and compost.

    In regards to Christmas gifts, well, it’s not my thing. I created personal calendars for my loved ones, which I sent to Massachusetts and Belgium and Mark and I went out for dinner. We bought a few special treats to eat and that’s it.

    Happy holidays and enjoy the time with you families. I think “buying” each other experiences (like a dinner or excursion treat) goes a long way and provides quality time together.

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    1. Hi Liesbet. Your lifestyle is the perfect example of living with a small environmental impact and reducing your carbon footprint. You don’t just talk about it; you live it. And as for me, despite my strongly held convictions, and in spite of taking many small steps, I have somehow ended up retiring with a big house and we each have a car. When we had family members still living with us, or potentially needed to provide elder care, it made sense. But now, it just seems like a personal indulgence. (On the other hand, if we sold our house and moved to a smaller home, someone else would just buy our place and it would not make any difference to the bigger picture. Would it?)

      All the best to you and Mark. I hope you are enjoying warm weather wherever you are.

      Jude

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  4. Let's make Christmas be like Thanksgiving. Friends, family and food! We don't need more stuff.

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    1. Friends, family, and food - yes, that is what it is all about. Thanks for commenting.

      Jude

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  5. Well said, Jude. I think every small step to reduce, reuse, recycle helps our environment. I try to practice the 3Rs every day.

    Regarding Christmas gifts, in my family, we've decided many years ago to do small gift exchange among our children only. Names drawn, and each child receives one gift from one of his/ her cousins. No gift exchange among the adults. We get together and bring food to share. This significantly cuts down the amount of shopping, stress, waste, and expenses for all the adults. Plus I do think it makes the one gift more meaningful to the recipient.

    Wishing you a fabulous Christmas with your family and friends!

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    1. Natalie, your family has a great strategy to reduce material consumption and stress at Christmas. Have a wonderful time this Christmas!

      Jude

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  6. I'm with you, Dr. Sock. Have posted a Christmas rant for years on ye olde blogge. For the same reasons: soul-less commercialism and missing the point of the holiday. Since I pay more attention to the Winter Solstice than Christmas now, I am much less ranty ;-)

    Deb

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    1. Hi Deb. Thanks for commenting. Your strategy for avoiding the need to rant about Christmas sounds like a good one!

      Jude

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  7. My quality time in welcoming Christmas was gather with family, dinner together, and chat with each other.
    NO Christmas Card.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Tikno. It sounds like you had a very pleasant family Christmas experience. Yes, sending Christmas cards is another Christmas activity that can somethimes feel like an obligation. I confess that I still do like to send and receive Christmas cards.

      Jude

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    2. Our family members consist of Christian, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism. We are Chinese descendant who live in Indonesia. So our family also celebrated Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, Vesak, Chinese New Year.

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    3. How wonderful to celebrate all those traditions!

      Jude

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