My son Jago will be almost two this Christmas. He has already been delighted by our mini-Christmas tree and I can’t wait to see his face when he is confronted by the inevitable parcel mountain at his grandparents on Christmas Day. As we all know Christmas is a wonderful time of year for children – but this year my excitement will be slightly tainted by a nagging doubt.
Running an environment charity means I am bombarded with reports about what is happening to our world. These used to come from the ‘usual suspects’ like Greenpeace but recently things have changed and they are now from the World Bank and management consultants like PwC. What hasn’t changed is the message which is we are playing a dangerous game with our global climate which will lead to more extreme weather.
I am naturally optimistic but it is difficult to stay positive when I see so much evidence about what is happening. Most alarmingly the speed of change means that Jago is likely to see the impact in his lifetime.
What I know is that we simply cannot keep consuming at our current level without doing serious global damage. The things we buy account for more than half the UK’s carbon dioxide production. Incredibly only 1% remain in use 6 months after sales. Even the goods we might have expected to hold on to are soon condemned to destruction through either by wearing out, breaking quickly or becoming unfashionable.
At Christmas I know that most of the things that Jago gets he doesn’t need and that the majority of then will be quickly consigned to the back of the toy box and forgotten about. I also know that he would be unhappy to have fewer presents and that not getting him anything would simply be out of the question for his loving relatives.
This Christmas conundrum highlights the core challenge we face as a society. We have locked ourselves into a consumer culture where buying and giving presents is central to the way we live. Somehow this culture needs to change without creating a lifestyle that loses its excitement and joy.
I have no idea how this change will happen, but what I do know is that it is a discussion and a debate that we need to start if we are to ensure that our children can live in a world which isn’t being buffeted by more storms, floods and droughts