Your child’s most important letter this season is not their letter to Santa.
This Holiday season is going to look very different (and I’m not referring to the lack of snow). For some, that may mean giving loved ones extra special gifts to compensate for not being able to celebrate in person. For others, especially those whose paycheque or health has been affected by COVID, it may be difficult to find a way to fill up a stocking.
For many of us, this current reality may allow us to get closer to the real spirit of the season. More than ever, this year, 2020, is a chance to focus on loved ones, to demonstrate your love, your hope and your gladness for having them in your life.
For me, that means, I also need to be worried about my loved ones’ futures. Particularly my children’s (and their children’s).
Twenty years from now, Christmas may look very different as well. My children are unlikely to remember or care whether, in that pivotal 2020 year, Santa brought them a new xbox game or doll, particularly if they are in the midst of unprecedented flooding, heat waves, or god forbid, a war for food or water. This may sound extreme, we are in Canada aren’t we? But unfortunately, these predictions are not far off if we continue to ignore the experts: scientists, physicians, world leaders who are united in the truth: our world is warming and the effects may be catastrophic and felt in our lifetimes if we don’t change our current trajectory. But what they might remember, is the gift of knowing that their parents tried everything to provide them and all following generations with a stable climate future, when they still had the chance.
It is clear that we need to act now. And by “we”, I don’t mean us as individuals using a reusable shopping bag or turning off the lights. These efforts alone won’t save us from climate chaos. I mean “we” as cities, as provinces, as a country, as a world. Ottawa, the nation’s capital, is only putting forth 1% of its city budget towards climate action. Ontario’s Premier has taken away energy retrofit programs, electric vehicle incentives and is currently trying to remove conservation authority powers that protect the natural spaces we need to be resilient to the impacts of climate change. Our Prime Minister has tabled a climate accountability act with no actual accountability and no legally binding emissions targets until 2050 and no plan for the next decade, despite scientific consensus that the next decade is the most critical for action. And why? Because these elected officials think that Canadians are not behind them. Like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, they need us to say we believe in them and we support them to act — boldly and based on scientific and expert evidence — and to do it swiftly.
All I want for Christmas is a Canadian climate action plan that will actually protect my children from the disasters (natural, financial and physical) that will come if we do not halt further warming by cutting emissions drastically and quickly.
This isn’t a present that Santa can give. But it is one that our elected officials can. So the most important letter that you can write for your child this Holiday Season is not a letter to Santa but to those that are supposed to be representing you and your kids — your elected officials (all of them: your city councilor, your mayor, MP, MPP, premier, prime minister, leader of the opposition, etc). This cannot be a partisan issue, we need ALL levels and members of the government working together. You can send them the same letter.
This may sound like I didn’t hear about the federal government’s recent announcement on carbon pricing. I did, and it’s wonderful but citizens still need to make noise, be vocal and show that we will stand behind climate action. The carbon pricing is only an effective way to cut emissions if we stop moving forward on any new pipelines. And the carbon pricing plan is only “bold” in relative terms, because of how slow our action has been up until this point. It is actually the same plan that was made 5 years ago, a plan that wasn’t particularly bold at that time. To hold our warming at only 1.5 degrees (what experts suggest is necessary), we must massively reduce our emissions well before 2030. For our governments to have the courage to do this, they need to hear from us.
Not sure what to write? Reach out to any of the major environmental groups in Canada: David Suzuki, Environmental Defense, or visit For Our Kids who have set up Holiday Cards for the Climate, which will make sending a letter even simpler and can even involve your children if you choose. And if you don’t want to stop at letter writing (and I hope you won’t), sign up to be a volunteer. Take action and give your kids the best Christmas present of all — a chance at a sustainable future.
As a mother of two young children and a scientist, I cannot remain silent as I see the current and approaching effects of climate change. We need parents and grandparents to step up. We need their voices to speak for our children — to protect their future and their childhood. Children and youth shouldn’t need to be worried about climate change, we, as parents, should be take on the role to ensuring our elected officials take the lead on bold, science-guided climate action.