A Scorched Earth Christmas is No Gift

For millennia, humans have celebrated the end of the year under any number of names, from Saturnalia to Christmas. Those in the northern hemisphere see the long, dark days begin to lengthen and brighten, lifting spirits as the New Year approaches. But this year, the idea of peace on Earth, good will toward all seems terribly diminished.

Our nation is as divided as it’s been in recent memory, the planet set yet another record for global warming, melting the polar ice sheets and causing extreme sea level rise. Although we have the means and ability to move the world in a more sane direction, we are led by those who deny its existence or are too timid to take the very real and necessary actions to combat climate change. Welcome, sadly, to our scorched earth Christmas.

In the “old” days if a Montana ski area expected to remain in business it was mandatory that the lifts were running and the slopes were open by Thanksgiving. It was simply considered necessary to have the crowds enjoying the holiday vacations on the slopes, in the lodges, buying lift tickets, food and beverages, renting equipment, taking ski lessons and enjoying being outdoors on the snow.

Those who still doubt that global warming is affecting our northern clime might want to think about why most Montana ski areas, unlike in the past, were not open by Thanksgiving — and those that were relied on artificial snowmaking and only offered limited terrain suitable for skiing. That’s a fact, not a theory. The snow simply wasn’t here and neither were the crowds of happy skiers.

Just recently a compendium of international scientists issued yet another dire warning that humanity must move aggressively to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or face an unlivable future. The Greenland ice sheets which sit on land, not float on water, are melting at an unprecedented pace and are going to push sea level rise to worst-case scenarios. Coastal areas, where millions live worldwide, are already being inundated by exceptionally high tides that flood lowland areas, send salty sea water into freshwater estuaries, and erode the barrier islands that long kept the pounding sea at bay.

The situation is so dire that in a recent poll Californians placed climate change above health care as a major issue, causing Speaker Nancy Pelosi to leave Washington during contentious impeachment proceedings to attend the international climate conference Donald Trump ignored. Yet, when she returned and could have included climate change measures in the U.S., Mexico and Canada trade agreement, she failed to do so. Talk, it seems, is still more important than action in Washington.

Meanwhile, the very stable genius in the Oval Office decided that the really pressing environmental issue is water conservation toilets and announced he was ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to look into those nefarious devices that take “10, 15 flushes” to work. Most people know Trump is full of it, but 10 or 15 flushes seems excessive even for him.

Even worse, when Time Magazine named 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg as “person of the year” Trump attacked her, seemingly out of jealousy that he didn’t receive the award and called the choice “ridiculous” while advising her to “chill” and get her “anger management” under control.

Thunberg is right to be angry. She’s right to challenge the so-called “leaders” of the world to quit blathering and take action. A scorched earth Christmas is no gift — it’s a crime perpetrated upon us all — especially our young people and generations yet to come.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.