Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A letter to Santa
I first must start with an apology: I know that no one who lives on the thinning ice of the North Pole needs to be lectured on the importance of climate change by me. And Lord knows, I am well aware of the sacrifices you’ve made for the planet already: your transportation fleet is famously carbon neutral, your delivery system remarkably efficient, your workforce – though not unionized – appears to be content and well-remunerated in cookies and egg nog. You don’t even appear to have a heater in your sled: for someone traveling in an open-top vehicle in December, that bespeaks an admirable commitment to the cause.
So it grieves me greatly, to point out that there is an enormous blind spot in your ecological practices. Santa, you have to stop with the lumps of coal.
Now, this isn’t just my revenge for the Christmas of ’83 – I was horrible to my little sister that year, and I know I deserved that carboniferous rebuke. I’m over it, really. I’ve changed, and it’s time for you to change too, Santa.
According to the census data, there are roughly 2.2 billion nominal Christians on Earth, all of whom I’m assuming mark Christmas in some way. Slightly less than a third of them are children under 14 years of age. I don’t know exactly how you calculate your bell curve to decide who is “naughty” or “nice” in any given year, but using a formula devised by calculating the number of disruptive, bullying, or potentially criminal kids I remember from my grade five class (yeah Trevor Vowell, I’m looking at you), I’m going to say one in ten.
That means one in ten children will receive a lump of coal. Now, I’m not sure how your elves calculate a “lump” precisely, but I’m going to assume that you’re old school and haven’t converted to metric yet. Is one pound reasonable?
So, we have roughly 61,600,000 kids on your list, of which one tenth is “naughty.” If each one of them gets a pound-sized lump of coal in their stocking, that works out to 30,800 tons of coal. Of course, individual coalmines extract millions of tons of the black stuff from Appalachia’s mountains, so your contribution barely ranks as a molehill. But it’s only by each of us taking small steps, and making small sacrifices, that we can make big changes. And lets face it, as small steps go, 30,800 tons of coal is bigger than most.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not suggesting dropping what the coal represented. While simply not putting anything at all in the stocking might seem to be the simplest solution, we both know the psychology you were employing: leave nothing, and the miscreants could simply convince themselves that you’d forgotten them. Putting a big old lump of something so un-fun in the stocking is the equivalent of Uncle Travis leaving me one Canadian dollar in his will: a middle finger, notarized.
So you have to give them something. And, though it breaks my heart to say it, you also have generations of coal-pushing to make up for. While it’s tempting to stay in the energy line, the virtuous alternatives – wind turbines, solar panels – won’t fit in a stocking. Unpleasant as they would be, some sort of methane-based fuel source would probably be a little too vindictive (though not to Trevor Vowell, that rock-throwing SOB). Also, I assume you don’t want to overburden Donner, Blitzen and the crew, so we’ll stick with a one-pound-per-brat limit.
Might I suggest a tree-seedling? They’re small, after all. And they will grow, sucking up carbon and storing it away for decades. You could make up for your centuries of coal-profligacy in a few decades. Plus, if you give away pine seedlings, you’re even providing Tannenbaum’s for Christmases future. Not to mention, by giving away seedlings that kids will have to water and nurture, you’re providing them with a responsibility, and a lesson about the fragility of life on Earth. In short, it’s earnest, boring, and a chore they’ll be stuck with for years: much nastier than a rock they can throw out and forget.
And if they’re still on your naughty list the following year? Give ‘em cabbage seeds. Trevor Vowell hated cabbage.