The scene: a vast city hungover by a mist of exhaust fumes, accompanied by the sound of Christmas carols and clinking beer bottles. It’s the season of yuletide intertwined with wastefulness, want and ignorance. A guilty party, guiltier than most, is preparing tomorrow’s feast. Already he has boned out the crown of a turkey, the remnants have filled his bin. The house is decked with swathes of golden tinsel, illuminated by hundreds of lights which flash out joyful Christmas messages. The corner of the stiflingly hot lounge is dwarfed by a magnificent plastic tree, adorned with this year’s Christmas baubles. Last year’s lie rejected beneath the turkey carcass.
Scrooge’s banquet preparations are interrupted by the doorbell; further online orders have arrived, his Christmas has finally been delivered. He knows that he has bought too much food and that some of the gifts he has chosen will be enjoyed for a short while but will ultimately end up in a drawer where they will stay. He shrugs it off, excusing his excessiveness with the fact that it was Christmas and at Christmas that is what you do.
The boiler wheezes loudly in its attempts to heat the house and apparently the entire street, as Scrooge has forgotten (once again) to shut the front door. After finishing his final arrangements for the big day, Scrooge remembers that his electric blanket has been warming his bed since lunchtime and should be nice and toasty by now. Leaving the Christmas lights flashing and remembering to shut the front door, he heads upstairs to run himself a bath before climbing into bed.
Throughout the night, Scrooge’s slumbers are interrupted by the appearance of 3 ghosts…
At 11 o’clock Scrooge’s eyes flicker open. He has been disturbed by a bright light, which he assumes is that of his Christmas decorations. As his brain starts to whirr, he realises that it is not his Christmas lights that are stinging his eyes but that a bright ghostly figure has formed before him.
“I am the ghost of Christmas past” sighed the woeful apparition. “I am here to enlighten you about the consequences of man’s wasteful ways”
“Come and see with your own eyes the effects of your consumerist ways”
Scrooge suddenly finds himself transported to a blue and white polar landscape. At that very moment, a huge avalanche of snow and ice cracks away from a frozen ice shelf and plunges into the freezing waters.
He hears a wild growl and with a shiver turns to see two polar bears, they have been separated from each other as the ice has split in two and they float away in opposite directions. They look underfed and lost in the melting wilderness.
Scrooge cannot help but be affected by the sad and sorry sight. He asks the spirit “pray tell me, why this is happening?”
“The world is warming my friend since you and others like you do not understand and have no regard for the fact that your unsustainable ways are slowly unbalancing delicate natural systems”
“Consider these statistics: 1 billion Christmas cards are sent each Christmas, the majority of which will end up in the bin, 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper will be thrown out or burnt, 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will end up in landfill . In 2014 the UK consumed 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding, 17.2 million Brussels sprouts, 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes ”
“Do not blame me for the errors of humanity, take me home and haunt me no longer!” cries Scrooge.
After drifting back to sleep Scrooge is again awakened by a bright light. “I am the ghost of Christmas present and I am here to expose you to a different way of living, a sustainable way of celebrating Christmas”
Scrooge and the ghost arrive outside an odd looking house; the roof tiles appear shiny and black. “What a strange fashion” muttered Scrooge. “It is not a fashion; those are solar panels, the people in this house harness renewable energy”.
After entering the house, the spirit explained that all the decorations are handmade from recycled materials. “How ingenious,” Scrooge thought.
The festive food smells delicious and looks just the right amount for the family. The vegetables have come from the garden and the turkey has been bought from a local farmer who gives them a good life before they end up as Christmas lunch. Beneath the Christmas tree, which has been grown over the year in the family’s garden, lies a modest pile of presents, wrapped in simple recycled paper. They are not shiny or adorned with glittering ribbon, yet they have a unique and personalised charm.
Candles softly illuminate the room and locally sourced firewood crackles in the hearth. The atmosphere is not imposed upon by any flashing Christmas lights, yet the spirit of Christmas still sparkles.
The spirit turned to leave explaining that his life in this world is brief, “it ends at midnight”.
As the ghost turned, Scrooge notices two faces poking out from beneath the spirit’s cloak.
“Who are they?” he gasped.
Revealing two children, the spirit tells Scrooge, “This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, but especially the boy.” With that, the clock chimed twelve.
A hooded shape floated towards him and Scrooge concluded that this must be the ghost of Christmas to come. They are propelled into the future. The spirit takes Scrooge on a tour showing him how the world has changed. Scrooge witnessed extreme floods and extreme droughts, incredible spread of infectious disease, lengthy heatwaves, the melted glaciers and ice caps, the increased sea levels and the lost cities they had engulfed, the extinction of species, the scarcity of resources, changes in animal migration patterns, more frequent and intense tropical storms, .. “Enough!” cried Scrooge, “Please tell me that this need not happen Spirit, what can I do to change this dreadful future?”
The spirit reassures Scrooge telling him that if he and mankind can change their ways, this needn’t be their fate.
“I will act now” promises Scrooge, “our future generations do not deserve this life”.
Upon return to his bed, Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning with a new found attitude to his consumerist ways.
Without hesitation, he runs downstairs and switches off his Christmas lights, turns down his heating and takes his surplus food to a nearby soup kitchen. That January his resolutions were to follow the ghosts’ advice and live a sustainable life. He now lives with a guilt-free conscience and is content in the knowledge that he is helping to safeguard the future of the planet and its inhabitants (including those polar bears).
(Drawing courtesy of Rebecca Gilruth)
Online tips on how to live and learn like Scrooge and achieve sustainability this Christmas
- (No Date) Available at: http://1.http://www.envirowaste.co.uk/feeds/news/christmas-waste-statistics–making-christmas-green.aspx (Accessed: 12 December 2016).
- (No Date) Available at: http://2.http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/christmas/food-drink/over-4-million-christmas-dinners-are-thrown-away-each-year-a6757211.html (Accessed: 12 December 2016).
- Riebeek, H. (2010)Global warming: Feature articles. Available at: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page6.php (Accessed: 12 December 2016).