Dreaming of a green Christmas


Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss

Environmentalists Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss had this published in an earlier form in the BBC's Green Room (2009). They pass on from a seasonal contributor an important message: "Though he usually prefers to act anonymously, he has been rumored to be active in many different countries under various personae that include Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and San Nicolas."

Dear children,
As many of you know this time of year is very busy for me. The elves are also really busy, making the Obama dolls (although they appear to be less popular than last year), the train sets, and the computer games.

But before I pack up the sleigh and set off on this year's big ride, I wanted to share with you an update on how things are going.

I wanted to share with you some worries I have, because here at the North Pole it has been a difficult year.

Dancer hurt a leg earlier this year and almost had to be replaced in this year's team.
It happened during a spring training run, when the ice - which had always been very strong here - turned out to be much thinner than we expected, and she almost fell all the way through into the Arctic Sea.

Fortunately, she was soon on the mend, but it did give us quite a scare.
But the thin-ice issue really got my attention. I had already been noticing how much the weather had been changing over the past 10 years.

Changing times
The polar bears keep pointing out to me that they've had to travel much further to find solid ice and snow. The Arctic terns and puffins have been flying away and back at unusual times of the season. And the permafrost has been turning to mush near the coastlines, which means it no longer is permanent at all.

I've had to re-route the take-off and landing patterns on all my maps, and each year that has been making delivering the presents much more difficult.

So I decided to find just what was happening. And guess what I found out?
It is this thing called climate change.

I hadn't realized how much damage that all this travelling around had been doing and how much our lifestyles had impacted on the Earth. It seems to me as I looked back that we have been dashing to disaster.

But you might say what would I know? After all I am just Father Christmas.

Well, I read these Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports, 'cor blimey' I have to say they were a little boring, but all these scientists from around the world have been saying the same thing and each of the reports they produce says things are getting worse. They tell us that people's use of oil, gas and coal has been putting thousands of extra tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. It's causing the Sun's heat to build up in the atmosphere of the Earth. The reports say things are getting worse and worse.

Farmers aren't getting enough rain for their crops, so they are having trouble growing enough food for people to eat in many countries. Even those hot -weather animals like elephants, tigers and lions, are struggling terribly as their natural homelands disappear.

Well, now it's starting to affect everything all over the world. Giant storms are flooding coasts and valleys, even big cities. And only a few weeks ago we had that awful hurricane Sandy and hopefully now those politicians will do something.

Green Pole
I have to say it put the frighteners under me. I thought what can I do. After all, I am just one person with a lot of elves and reindeer.

Well the first thing was to find out what my carbon footprint might be. Well blimey, it was a lot!
I mean, if you are delivering to all the good girls and boys around the world, that's a lot of methane from the resulting reindeer poo. Then there is the production of all the toys and, being in the North Pole, we need a lot of heating and lighting most of the year as it is cold and very dark.

I then thought I would see what the experts had to say, so I asked them to carry out an energy assessment of our operations. They found that most of our power needs could be delivered by renewable energy.

So, this year there has been lots of building work around the grotto.

We now have wind turbines, which are powering most of the workshop and the housing. The reindeer have fun racing around it.

I bought some nifty electric cars for the elves to move around in, and a small methane collection plant for the… well, you know, with reindeer, we do get a lot of it, for the heating.

Of course, with reindeer powering the sleigh, my air travel is extensive so I still needed to deal with the methane. I found a nice offset scheme that enabled me to contribute to a forest in Brazil.
I am proud to say we may not have reduced yet all our fossil fuel uses but we are close to doing so. I always say, where there is a will there is a way.

And that brings me to the plea. I watched that chap Obama say the other day that he will take personal control of the US position on climate he knows that we have to cut our emissions in the US and the developed world if we want to stabilize our temperature at 1.5-2.0C above pre-industrialized levels.

We had better do it, or I am going to have to replace the reindeer with camels if I am going to be able to deliver presents in the future. Rudolph would be so sad.

So I am asking all of children out there - and you adults too - to let your president or prime minister know your views. Lima was a start but not enough we need to let them know before the next climate meeting in Paris in a years time, so get writing and texting.

I will also keep an eye on those politicians too. I think some of them will not be on my list of good boys and girls next year. I hope I am wrong on that.

Anyway, I hope you each have a peaceful and wonderful holiday this year. Let's all try to make it a very merry green Christmas.

And let's remember to enjoy what we have, and to share it together.
Father Christmas

Felix Dodds is an Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute and was executive director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future (1992-2012), and Michael Strauss is executive director of Earth Media. Felix has just relaunched his web site www.felixdodds.net If you like this story and want to invest in helping it become a cartoon for TV then please contact me.

Their latest book is ONLY ONE EARTH - The Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development by Felix Dodds, Michael Strauss with Maurice Strong --- also available now on Kindle or Nook
Also buy for Christmas From Rio+20 to the New Development Agenda and download on your Kindle The Plain language Guide both by Felix Dodds, Jorge Laguna Celis and Liz Thompson


  1. Thank you, Felix, for your Xmas message.
    The slow death of the planet you describe in your adaptation of Santa Claus story is a powerful wake-up call: the time has come for us; we must stop living as slaves of the sweetened and deceptive world dominated by marketing, and to start living as responsible citizens before it’s too late. Surely you go much deeper on these subjects in your books.
    However, please, allow me to share a few thoughts emerging from your children story.
    The mythical culture that replaced the historic birth in Bethlehem is another proof of manmade subterfuge to escape reality. As evidence of self-destructive materialism a few decades back Coca Cola –the paradigm of consumerism- decided to transform the mythical character dressed in green (Saint Nicholas) into another fantasy character (Father Christmas) wearing the Company’s colors: red and white. A new marketing idol was born. December became the most commercial month of the year ever since. Oddly enough, many serious scholars state that Jesus was born in a different season of the year!
    That child born in Bethlehem ever got old or grew a white beard for crossing the skies on sled to reward children with plastic toys; he rather died voluntarily as a poor young man in order to open a path to true sustainable life. He did so as a service to the world.
    Furthermore, historic Jesus did not ask anyone celebrate his birthday; on the contrary, he asked his followers remember why he died and what for, as his name reveals. In fact he wanted that we knew him better, not his manmade substitutes.
    He set an example to all of us to live a simple life based on the radical ethical change he proposes all men and women of goodwill: to love one another.
    The incomparable teachings of Jesus show that we are designed for behaving as the Planet’s faithful stewards, instead of living like insatiable consumers of non renewable resources and like exploiters of the poor. We must change our mentality, abandon the suicidal lifestyle that dominates us, return to the source of all wisdom, and be set free; there is no other way to renew true hope in reconciliation between human beings, with the environment and with the Creator. If each one of us changes, surely we’ll together change the world.
    Best wishes to you & all friends.


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