A guide for Christmas, and always

A lesson from the San people of Africa

Wilbur Smith is one of my favourite writers.  His novels are set in Africa, and his fictional stories take place against a rich background of accurate African history, culture and tradition.

Smith’s “The Burning Shore” is set in the Namib Desert, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.  Centaine, a shipwrecked pregnant European woman, is rescued from certain death by a San* man and woman, H’ani and O’wa.  They guide her safely across the barren, hostile desert, teaching her the ways of survival along the way.  At one point, O’wa admonishes Centaine for wanting to overharvest plants in the fragile ecosystem:

“What will they say of us?” The words jumped out at me when I read them earlier this year.

Overconsumption is at the root of our biggest environmental challenges, and Christmas is the biggest overconsumption feeding frenzy of the year.  Ironically, gifts exchanged at Christmas are often not wanted, not needed or of poor quality (so they end up in the trash by Easter).  They often cause debt for the giver, and often don’t bring joy to the recipients.

So this year, why not resolve to consume less (because really, you’re a person, not a consumer), and instead choose gifts that are better for the body, soul, community, pocketbook and planet?

  • Experiences like live theatre; outings like date night or family night; fun activities like bowling or skiing
  • Eco-friendly (and local?) personal care products like soap, lip balm and lotions
  • Eco-friendly gifts like a compost pail, beeswax wraps or reusable containers for leftovers to replace the need for single-use Styrofoam and plastic in the kitchen
  • Gifts from thrift stores (and there are a ton of great deals on great nearly-new products if you know where to look!)
  • A subscription for a food box from a local community-supported agriculture farm
  • Books or courses on gardening, energy efficiency, renewable energy or other sustainability topics
  • Commemorative donations to organizations that do good for the community or the planet, like the Nature Trust of New Brunswick; the Nature Conservancy of Canada; the TransCanada Trail; Learning for a Sustainable Future; the David Suzuki Foundation; the Conservation Council of New Brunswick; your local shelter, community kitchen or food bank; or another organization that shares your values
  • The gift of time: a visit or phone call to someone who could use a bit of company far more than more stuff

In short, this Christmas, why not resolve to consume in a way that will have future generations say of us, “They left us abundance.”  Then carry that sentiment past the holidays and into every day of the year.

Happy holidays, and see you in 2023!

*formerly known as Bushmen

In the news

Puzzling: the UK approves a new coal mine that will result in 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

Revolution in renewables: the International Energy Agency reports that the world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the past 20!

Here’s a short media clip of our hugely-successful October 15 Solar Open House (and ICYMI, another is planned for spring; just hit reply to let me know if you’d like a reminder once the date is finalized).


“The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

– Polar Explorer Robert Swan, 2012 

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