A gift for 2020: Earth for our great-grandchildren

The biggest gift, in the end, will be the one we leave to the great-great-grandchildren we might never see: a healthy planet.

When giving gifts, think of the Earth

The gifts that keep on giving are those that contribute to a healthy planet. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Giving gifts is common at this time of year, and sometimes we struggle with what to give and receive—to ourselves and others. 

Some people make New Year's resolutions: often huge, abstract goals and expectations for the year to come, with varying degrees of success attaining them. 

I pondered the gift-giving and new decade recently while I heard a presentation by friend and retired physicist. He spoke about an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the long history of science through Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives. The topic of climate change arose over and over.

Climate change isn't news. It's gone from an idea to a theory, and from a theory to an observable phenomenon in our daily experiences. When I wrote Knit Green, a book on textile sustainability issues for knitters (and people who wear clothes) a decade ago, I wrestled with these issues. None of it was novel then.

We need to step up our actions

Now, though, we need to step up our actions. As individuals, we need a multi-pronged approach. 

The first part requires us to put pressure on those in power. From fresh water to plastic pollution to renewable energy investments, we've got to lobby those in power to stop doing business as usual.

Our city needs a composting program, a single use plastics-ban, and better recycling opportunities. Our province can offer clean-energy grants and fund initiatives to reduce waste. Our country can require all corporations to stop polluting and hurry up with the environmental clean-up, particularly when it comes to the many Indigenous communities without access to clean water. 

The legislative agendas should be full, with committees working out how to expedite change rather than wasting more time studying how to do it.

The second part of our efforts must be on an individual level. We need to create a cyclical evaluation of our households and habits. How can we reduce (especially fossil fuels), reuse and recycle?

For instance, it's winter in Manitoba. Most mornings, I walk by cars idling on the street. Owners use their remote starters to pollute the air and waste gasoline--rather than wearing mitts and getting into a car that isn't already toasty warm from wasted energy. 

Yes, my car is cold when I hop in, but my block heater timer is set for only 2 hours a day, and the car starts. Yours could, too.

Students and young people gather on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature for a climate change protest last September. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Other things we can do: sourcing food with less packaging, carpooling, or conducting business virtually rather than flying to be at meetings in person.

Collectively, these efforts are honestly the biggest 2020 goal I could imagine. Yet they are not easily tangible. We likely will never know if our daily efforts were the difference-maker but our children and beyond will suffer terribly if we fail to try.

So the next time you want to give a gift to an adult who has everything, consider making something from scratch. Give homemade jam in reusable jars, or reuse or repurpose something into a new and unique item .

If you're not handy? Donate money in their name to a charity that plants trees, grows food, reduces waste, or makes any kind of positive environmental
change. If you must buy something, buy a locally-made product that is made sustainably.

Even when you gift things to a kid, it can be a green toy, a reusable gift bag, or something made locally for them to wear, eat or make on their own.

The biggest gift

The biggest gift, in the end, will be the one we give to the great-great-grandchildren we might never see. Imagine if we could give them a world that is healthy and safe. What about giving them the chance to safely live a fulfilling life in a place rich in plant and animal diversity…a place we didn't wholly destroy.

We may not meet all our 2020 goals but oh, what a gift we could give to the future, to grant our children a world that isn't going down in climate emergency wildfire flames! It's better to give than receive. Let's stop consuming and getting. Let's give life on earth to the future.


Joanne Seiff is the author of several books, including Knit Green, about textile sustainability. She works in Winnipeg as a freelance writer.


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