Christmas, Family and Nature – the Unlikely Trinity of Sustainability

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Ho ho ho! ‘Tis the Christmas season and large-scale consumer madness is upon us. Everywhere stores have been filled with useless holiday kitsch, wallets and bank accounts have been emptied, gifts have been wrapped and mother earth is getting exploited and her beauty dissipated like a globally orchestrated assault on nature in broad day light. Meanwhile the latest episode of Vikings is so captivating that any conscious reflection on the state of our world and future seems as far away as bombs raining over Yemen.

Of course, the Christmas holidays are much more than a capitalist Armageddon. It is the season where families come together, put their differences aside or even better rejoice in their love for one another, and share special moments which hopefully will be remembered for many years to come. Traditions like this have survived over centuries because they manage to preserve some kind structure in a world which has never been more divided on a large range of issues.

In between contentious issues that can ruin any delicious Christmas dinner, be they abortion, family separation, the rise (again) of ethno-nationalism, cyber threats, geo-political instability, trade wars and whether or not Twitter is in fact the voice of the devil, no other issue is as contentious and depressing than the undeniable elephant in the room (yes, my ladies and gentlemen – you guessed right): climate change.

Anyone who has just a toe in the facts of the midlife crisis which the world’s climate is currently undergoing, we are standing at a crossroad which will indeed define the future of our species. Whether we have already crossed certain thresholds in terms of what the global climate can bear is debatable, yet there seems to be an autumn of climate melancholy descending over those who do not carry the shield of denial or ignorance. We seem to be on a fast-moving train to nowhere. Even stating that has become mildly cliché.

Indeed, we are living in fascinating yet paradoxical times. The speed by which we live our lives has increased exponentially in the last 10-20 years, fuelled by smartphones, social media, cheap airplane tickets and the easy access to whatever our minds and bodies crave. Yet as capable and creative the human race seems to be given our ability to create cities, trade routes, armies, institutions, hydrological dams and country albums, the rational, long-term reasoning of this supposedly highly advanced brain that we carry seems to have run into an iceberg. And that iceberg is, unsurprisingly to most by now, climate change.

Our lives seem to be so needlessly centred around consumption, material status and growing an unsustainable economy that stopping this train of modernity before we run into the last ‘living’ iceberg has become something we’d rather not discuss. Least of all around the Christmas table. I mean, who wants to pardon a turkey when your 8-year old is telling you the animal industry is leading us on a 3-degree path?

Climate change was never an easy subject. It is a global phenomenon, and as we all know given the relative impotency of the UN over the last 70 years, global cooperation is difficult to manage, implement and sustain. This is why climate change is such a difficult topic to address. It affects everyone and everything, and it seems impossible to reverse.

Yet with any midlife crisis or loss of a loved one, there is a period of despair and thinking that all is lost. Yet when we read about climate change, get filled with the numbing feeling of apathy and despair and then wake up the next morning, the world is still breathing. And it will continue to do so.

But we have a pact with nature, whether we like to admit it or not. We depend on nature and nature responds to how we treat it. It is like our family – it is difficult to live without. In fact it is impossible. That is why I would like to urge you to see this upcoming Christmas as a time of reflection. Nature and family are critical elements that help secure a fundament upon which we establish or lives and livelihoods.

So yes, we have come to the point in the article where I leave a pitch of action that youcan do. To help you not only get close with your family, but get close with the nature outside our doors upon which we all depend, but seem to have lost touch with. Our friends over at Grøn Forskel have devised an excellent way to make your Christmas in Denmark just a bit more aligned with sustainability and nature, and have everything from sustainable Christmas trees to sustainable wrapping and gifts. Check them out at https://groenforskel.dk/baeredygtig-jul/. Similarly, Friends of the Earth have made a 21-point guide of making an eco-friendly Christmas: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/natural-resources/21-ecofriendly-christmas-tips.

Life on earth has overall never been better. In order to keep it that way, we have to become conscious of our choices. International cooperation and solutions on climate change will only matter as long as we as ordinary citizens do our part. And we can. Christmas, family and nature are the unlikely trinity of sustainability. Separated they can easily be opposed to one another, but with the right mind-set they can reinforce one another. So, use this Christmas to get closer to your family, and closer to your distant yet ever-present relative – the world which you inhabit. You won’t regret it.

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