What is the Meaning of Christmas?

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I have always had some struggles with the consumerism of Christmas. I grew up with six siblings and parents who didn’t have much money. We always received gifts for Christmas, but they were simple gifts like farm sets and matchbox vehicles. Truth be told, we were happy with the gifts given to us, even though they were not the biggest or newest toys on the market at the time. Being an adult for some time now, I’ve witnessed family and friends giving extravagant gifts worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I have always thought how ridiculous this seemed as it was proof for me of the rampant consumerism that occurred at Christmas time.

People’s struggles with consumerism have been going on a long time. In 1965, an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz, debuted for the first time on television. The special was called A Charlie Brown Christmas and this was a cartoon that really addressed the issue of consumerism at Christmas.

51ACRI9SIYL._SX940_In the cartoon, Charlie Brown knows that he should be happy, but he isn’t. He believes that commercialism is the problem. He struggles with his younger sister Sally who wants him to help her with her Christmas letter to Santa, where she dictates, “I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want. Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?” He is also conflicted when Snoopy enters a Christmas decorating contest and wins a cash prize.

Charlie doesn’t know what to do about it all. When Lucy suggests that he direct the Christmas play, Charlie Brown hopes to find the true meaning of Christmas in the process. Even that doesn’t seem to work. One of the last pieces for the play is to get a Christmas tree as the set centerpiece. Charlie Brown, along with Linus, takes on the task with his entire cast wanting him to pick out a nice aluminum tree. Instead, Charlie Brown chooses a small, frail looking real tree, which when he tries to decorate it  he believes he has failed.

Even Linus declares, “Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it’s getting too dangerous.” Linus’ sister Lucy tells Charlie, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.” The cartoon is about Charlie Brown who is trying to obtain the real meaning of Christmas, which he believes is eclipsed by commercialism.

No one speaks of consumerism around Christmas better than Cal Thomas, an American syndicated columnist who often writes from a Christian perspective. Mr. Thomas recognized uncomfortable truths about Christmas in his December 2003 column. In his column he wrote:

“I’m not sure it’s worth keeping Christmas anymore. Oh, it is fine for those apparently dwindling numbers of us who still believe in the “original cast” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men and the animals. They, as any post-Thanksgiving (not to mention postmodern) shopper knows, have been replaced by the road show of reindeer, winter scenes, elves and the God substitute, Santa Claus, who serves as a front for merchants seeking to play on the guilt some parents bear for ignoring their kids the rest of the year…

Why participate any longer in this charade where the focal point of worship has shifted from a babe in a manger to a babe in the Victoria’s Secret window? From gold, frankincense and myrrh to Bailey Banks & Biddle? No room in the inn has been replaced by no room in the mall parking lot. If God would get a lawyer out of hell, He might be justified in suing for copyright infringement. His great story has been hijacked and transformed into its opposite.”

Even though the column was written twelve years ago, Mr. Thomas still echoes the sentiment that many people feel today. Add to that the desire by some for political correctness or the mentality of some that we cannot say “Merry Christmas” for fear that we might offend non-Christians; that the politically correct thing is to say “Happy Holidays.”  The Bible Society of Australia conducted some research in 2011 about the Australian public’s attitude towards Christmas. 70% of Australian believers think the true meaning of Christmas has been lost. Their research also discovered that 51.9% of ‘non-Christians’ think that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost. (see Loosing the meaning of Christmas). So that begs the question, what is the true meaning of Christmas? Is Christmas just about giving gifts as our consumerist society wants us to believe?  I’ve been reflecting on this question for some time now and I have come to the conclusion that Christmas is really about love.

img_3204In 1995, Dr. Gary Chapman published a book called, Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, a book I read a few years ago. Here is a quick summary of the five love languages as described by the Verily website.

  1. Words of Affirmation: Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

  2. Quality Time: In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

  3. Receiving Gifts: Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

  4. Acts of Service: Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

  5. Physical Touch: This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

I have always thought that there was a lot of merit to Dr. Chapman’s Five Love Languages. How does Christmas fit in with Dr. Chapman’s love languages? Well, after thinking about it, it turns out that Christmas addresses all the languages of love. Let’s have a look at each.

  1. Words of Affirmation: Giving affirmations are part of the Christmas tradition. Compliments such as “that Christmas dinner was delicious” or “You look great” are freely given. Christmas cards are sent out each year expressing sentiments of love to others. Christmas letters do the same thing. This does not include the affirmations we give when we greet our loved ones when visiting them at Christmas. Words of affirmation have always been a part of the Christmas tradition and still are.
  2. Quality Time: Christmas is about spending quality time with family. The Bible Society Australia research I mentioned earlier discovered that 94% of Australians liked spending time with loved ones at Christmas. I know of individuals that only see their loved ones at Christmas time. To quote Burton Hillis, “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. Quality time is unquestionably an important part of the Christmas tradition.
  3. Receiving Gifts: Not much needs to be said about this love language. The biggest aspect of Christmas is gift giving. It has always been this way. However, that doesn’t mean that gifts have to be worth enormous amounts of money. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
  4. Acts of Service: Christmas is also a time when people do something special for others. It might be buying an extra gift to donate to Santa’s Anonymous. It might be conducting a food bank drive. Christmas seems to be a time that brings out the “goodness” in people. In my community, one family puts on a Christmas dinner for those less fortunate in the community. Acts of Service are a part of the Christmas tradition.
  5. Physical Touch: I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience of Christmas has always been filled with lots of hugs and kisses from loved ones. People seem extra happy at Christmas and therefore seem more willing to express their feelings through physical touch That could be a hug or a kiss or at the very least a hand shake.  Dacher Keltner in his article Hands on Research says, “the science of touch convincingly suggests that we’re wired to; we need to connect with other people on a basic physical level. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts.” Physical touch is a critical part of the Christmas tradition.

So after much reflection on the topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christmas is more than the consumerism that I’ve been dwelling on. It’s more than gift giving. Christmas brings out the best in people. Christmas is a time that brings forth more love into the world. Christmas is about a spirit of love, otherwise known as the Christmas spirit.

The Christ child is a symbol of love, hope and peace that creates a joyful season. For Christian believers its more than a symbol. For non-believers the child is a symbol of love. Perhaps Linus Van Pelt expressed what Christmas is all about best when he said, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

Christmas is an attitude. It’s a time when we allow the spirit of Christmas that inspires us to give and receive. That can be in the form of acts of kindness, giving gifts, saying a kind word, smiling at a stranger,  giving hugs freely, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Calvin Coolidge says it best when he said, “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy [I prefer to say compassion], is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” The true meaning of Christmas is about a change in attitude. It’s about allowing the spirit of love, otherwise known as the Christmas spirit, to take hold of us.

Christmas Controversies

Every year as the Christmas season approaches controversies erupt around political correctness and tolerance. This year there was the Starbucks controversy (see Red Cup Controversy) , which monopolized imageheadlines in November. The company typically has its red holiday cups decorated with snowflakes, Christmas ornaments or reindeer, but chose for a minimalist design this year with cups that are red with nothing but its green logo. Starbucks executives said they wanted to embrace “simplicity and quietness.” However some Christian conservatives saw these new cups as an attempt to diminish the importance of Christmas.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.50.33 AMAnother controversy occurred in Oakville, Washington, a town of 700 people who typically celebrates Christmas without controversy (see Christmas Message Sparks Controversy).  This year volunteer firefighters at Grays Harbor Fire District No.1 put a biblical message on their sign. The sign outside the fire station read, “Unto us a savior is born. Merry Christmas.” So when someone complained the fire commissioner ordered the sign to come down and their Christmas tree turned off.

I understand some of the thinking around these controversies. After all we live in a multicultural country and it is important to be sensitive to the different cultures around us. In fact, Canada celebrates multiculturalism and has officially made multiculturalism it’s policy. In 1971, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of Canada’s present prime minister, Justin Trudeau, acknowledged its commitment to the principle of multiculturalism and formalized a policy to protect and promote diversity. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. This policy affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.

In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was enacted by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. This Act has two fundamental principles:

  1. All citizens are equal and have the freedom to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.
  2. Multiculturalism promotes the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in all aspects of Canadian society.

The United States does not have any kind of act recognizing its multicultural diversity that I am aware of, but nonetheless, like Canada, it is a country made up of immigrants and therefore it’s society encompasses many cultures.

So I get it (I think). I understand the need to be sensitive to other religious traditions and cultures. After all, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act states, “Citizens…have the freedom to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.” So the way I see it, Christmas is a time for Christians to share their religious heritage.

Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and is the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Yeshua or Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is regarded by most Christians as the Son of God and the savior of humanity. It seems every year there are some people who take offense to Christians expressing this belief.  Christians should not feel stifled in any way when celebrating one of their biggest festivals!

250px-Menorah_0307The Jewish tradition celebrates Hanukkah or the “Feast of Dedication,” also known as the “Festival of Lights”.  This festival is celebrated on the 8th day of December and it is a time when Jewish people recall a miracle in the Jerusalem temple during a war fought by the Maccabees for the cause of religious freedom. Temple candles only had enough oil to burn for a single day. Yet they burned for eight days. Jews light candles on a menorah, two on the first day, three on the second, to nine on the eighth day. Jews should not feel restricted in any way when celebrating Hanukkah. In fact, this celebration should be encouraged. Perhaps in addition to Starbucks having cups with Christmas decorations on it, the company should also include cups with the menorah on it.

Also on December 8th, or on the Sunday immediately preceding it, the Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day. This day recalls the day in 596 BCE, when Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha (meaning enlightened one) sat beneath a Bodhi tree and is believed to have achieved enlightenment, thus escaping the repeating cycle of reincarnation: involving birth, life, death and rebirth. Being this is an important day for the Buddhists, why not have some Starbucks cups with Bodhi trees on them in December as well. This would be a great way to educate people about the various religious traditions among us and maybe even build religious tolerance, which is so badly needed in our world.

For Muslims, Eid al-Adha is a significant annual Islamic observance for many Muslims around the world. It is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or Festival of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice as it commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son to God. Eid al-Adha is a happy occasion that many Muslims celebrate. It is around the 10th to the 13th days of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (or Dhul Hijja). This is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar. It is a very sacred month in the Islamic calendar, one in which Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) takes place. It is a time marked by special prayers and many Muslims gather for special prayer services. Many people also visit family and friends, exchange greetings and gifts, and make donations to the poor. It is also a time for forgiveness and compassion. Doesn’t that sound a lot like Christians at Christmas? At Christmas don’t people gather for special prayer services, visit family and friends, and exchange greetings and gifts?

In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Eid al-Adha was celebrated in December. These holy days have left December, but will return in about three decades. Why not have some Starbucks cups commemorating this Islamic festival during the month when it is celebrated. This would be a great way to educate people about Islam especially during a time in history when Islamophobia is rampant. Why not?

We can get so caught up in political correctness or the mentality that we might offend non-Christians if we celebrate Christmas publicly. These festivals should be celebrated publicly and acclaimed with pride. I am not referring to just the Christian festivals but all religious festivals. Instead of being afraid to offend someone, companies such as Starbucks, should be willing to acknowledge these festivals when they occur and their cups should acknowledge the festival of whichever religious celebration is occurring. Maybe I’m being naive, I don’t know. Maybe this is easier said than done, but it seems to me that this would be a way to educate people about the various religions of the world and a way to build religious tolerance rather than contributing to fear and resentment of other religious traditions.

Europe Then and Now

Since returning from our trip abroad, my wife and I have been asked numerous times what we found different in Europe compared to our first time over there which was 26 years ago. Our gut response is always to say, “It pretty much looks the same as it did last time we were there.”  Now that is the truth.  It still looks pretty much as it did in the 1980s.  Most of the buildings still look very old and the majority of the streets are still very narrow. However, if there is one thing that was noticeably different was the amount of English around.

When I taught Social Studies, we used to discuss the  question, Is English becoming a universal language? when teaching about how globalization is changing the world.  For me, it was interesting to see if what I taught was indeed truth.  According to the article, 10 Reasons why English is the World’s Language, some of  the reasons why English is considered by some to be, or at least on its way to being, a universal language are:

  1. English is the language of business & finance
  2. Hollywood is the capital of film-making and many foreign actors have had to learn to speak English to work in Hollywood.
  3. If you want to make in the international music arena, you must be able to sing in English.
  4. English is the language of travel. English is the language used when the local hotel, restaurant or retail staff members communicate with foreigners and visitors.
  5. English is the unofficial language of the internet. There are billions upon billions of websites on the Internet nowadays, and it’s estimated that more than half of the entire online material is published in English.
  6. The influence of the United States and the United Kingdom, two very influential English-speaking world players.

Kevin & Marilyn - 1557 of 2668Now this all makes sense to me, but I know when I was teaching this stuff I wondered if it really was that way.  Well I can tell you after returning from Europe, I have to say that I believe there is truth in these arguments.  Allow me to share some of my observations.  When we were in the airports and train stations I noticed the signage would have the language of the country we were in written first, with English written underneath. We were in airports in Athens (Greece), Rome (Italy), Paris (France) Istanbul (Turkey) and Warsaw (Poland).  This was the case in every one of those airports.  I don’t recall that being the case 26 years ago.  Announcements in the airports were also in both the language of the country and in English.  This was also the case for most train stations and we were in many, many train stations throughout Italy and France.

Before leaving for Europe, we prepared by downloading a translator app, and then we inputted and saved numerous phrases that we thought would be necessary when over in Italy, France and Greece.  We did not need to use this app once when talking to people.  Almost everyone we talked to in France, Italy, the Turkish airport, the Polish airport and in Greece spoke fluent English, although with an accent. We were most surprised when we found an English speaking waitress in the Warsaw airport.The only time we used the translator app was when looking at ingredients in a supermarket.

IMG_2491As for the restaurants, no matter what country we were in, most of the staff spoke English.  Not only that, almost every restaurant we ate at had menus in English.  Often they would have the Greek or Italian or French first with the English written underneath.

My wife and I drove in northern France. One day we decided to see what was on the radio, so we turned on the radio only to be pleasantly surprised to hear a song we recognized; a pop song in English.  As soon as the song was finished, we were astonished to hear the disk jockey speak in French.  It struck me as odd; as “out of sink”; as not fitting.  This certainly does suggest that much of the world’s popular music is indeed sung in English.

IMG_2857Another noticeable difference from the 1980s was the number of signs you see in English.  In all three of the countries we visited; France, Italy and Greece, you would see store or company signage in both the language of the country we were in and in English. Often it would be Greek (or Italian or French) on some businesses and English on others. Many of the directions for toilets, exits, or tourist sites would also have English on them.

Another topic I often discussed with my students was; Was the world  becoming more homogenized  (more the same) because of globalization?  I certainly saw evidence of this as well.  The youth in Europe for the most part wore blue jeans just as the youth in North America do.  This was not only true of the youth. The hair styles of the youth were the same styles you would see on North American youth. Then there is the cell phones.  Everyone appears to have one and be on it just like in North America. Whether we were on the Metro, on a bus, in a museum or walking down a street, you would see people texting or talking on their cell phones.This certainly suggests homogenization to me.

It was not unusual to see stores or products from the same corporations in European cities that you would see in North American cities.  I noticed many MacDonald’s restaurants, Burger King, Shell gas stations, Esso gas stations, and clothing stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch and the Gap.  I also noticed Apple Stores, Starbucks coffee, and Disneyland Paris.  There were Coca Cola and/or Pepsi signs every where. I’m sure I missed a few companies that operate in the European Union. This also advocates for the homogenization argument.  We went into one store in Greece only to discover that much of clothing they sold had American cities written on them or some  saying written in English.

IMG_3061I have mixed feelings about these changes that I’ve observed.  Regarding English as perhaps a universal language, that is great for those of us that English is our first language, or in my case the only language.  I guess I should be grateful that the language I was born into is being spoken in most parts of the world. After all, it makes travelling much less stressful.  What bothers me is the possibility that the world is becoming more and more the same culturally.  This saddens me because the point of travel for me at least is to experience the cultural diversity in the world.  I fear that as globalization continues to take hold, diversity will be lost.  The fact that youth in Europe and North America dress the same is evidence of this.  The truth that you see many of the same companies in the European Union as you do in North America suggests the world is indeed becoming more and more alike.  Like anything else there are always pros and cons.  I do hope that the various cultures of the world will be able to resist globalization enough so that they will continue to exist as a unique culture of the world. Variety makes the world more interesting.  If all countries of the world become more and more alike, then won’t that make for a boring world?

Get it Right

If you follow the news at all, you know that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21, is presently being held in Paris, France. The talks started November 30 and will continue until December 11. The objective of the conference is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement from all the nations of the world. The goal of the agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C. If you are not familiar with greenhouse gasses and what is known as the greenhouse effect, here is a little science lesson.

GUSTAVO-CAMACHO-GONZALEZ-L1060274_(23430273715)It is referred to as the greenhouse effect because the earth acts just like a greenhouse does. The sun gives off electromagnetic radiation, in particular infrared radiation, visible light, and ultraviolet light. Visible light consists of short wavelengths of energy, which are able to pass through the glass or plastic of a greenhouse, and are absorbed. It is then released back as heat (thermal energy) or infrared radiation. This is what heats up the greenhouse as infrared radiation consists of long wavelengths of energy which are unable to pass through the greenhouse’s glass or plastic, thus are trapped in the greenhouse.

The earth, in essence is like a big greenhouse. The sun sends energy to the earth’s surface in the form of visible light (and other radiation), which is absorbed and then released back as heat. Our atmosphere, which contains naturally occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, and methane gas, absorbs the heat radiation and then slowly releases some of it into space. The earth’s atmosphere is like the glass or plastic of a greenhouse; it traps heat in. Since there is an excess amount of greenhouse gases caused by human activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels, being released into our atmosphere (See the graph on NASA’s Global Climate change website. ), plus the fact that humans are destroying forests at an alarming rate which remove CO2 , more heat radiation than normal is trapped in our atmosphere. The result is the earth is getting warmer

We refer to global warming as when excess greenhouse gases cause the Earth’s temperature to rise.  According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, “As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming”.

Climate change is caused by the rising temperature of the earth, which causes regional climate characteristics (temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.) to be altered, leading to catastrophic events like melting glaciers, rising oceans, evaporating lakes, devastating hurricanes, and heavy snowfalls.

United Nations Climate Change Conferences have been tried on numerous occasions before with UN conferences on climate change occurring every year since 1995. Will this conference be different? Will the world leaders unify this time and actually produce a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gasses and commit to it? Let’s hope so.

It doesn’t take much research to determine that our planet is in trouble. Climate change is happening whether we believe it or not. On NASA’s Global Climate change website it states, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.” On this website, and there are many other websites agreeing, it sites evidence such as rising sea levels, increasing ocean temperatures, the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers in Greenland. Then there are the extreme weather events that all of us have witnessed in recent years. NASA’s website also sites extreme weather events as evidence. If we are to save this planet, and ultimately ourselves as humans, we must start doing something constructive now!

Many of the world’s leaders are saying the right things. Addressing the 2015 conference in Paris, U. S president Barack Obama said on November 30 that the U.S. accepted its responsibility to help fix climate change, and that global action need not damage economic growth. “What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet.” He urged the leaders to take action even if the benefits were not evident for generations. Mr. Obama also has stated the importance for getting India and China on board to make the U.N climate summit a success, as both those countries are huge CO2 emitters. (see Citing Urgency)

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau in his address to the conference stated that, “Canada will take on a new leadership role internationally,” Mr. Trudeau was interrupted by applause when he said: “We’re here to help.”

Mr. Trudeau also goes on to say, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet…The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste”.

Justin Trudeau also said climate change is more than a challenge, but an historic opportunity. He said climate change is “An opportunity to build a sustainable economy based on clean technology, on green infrastructure and on green jobs. We will not sacrifice growth, we will create growth,” he said. (see APTN National News)

It is true that the indigenous people have historically had a great deal of respect for “Mother Earth”, and when the Europeans came over to North America, that changed. This is something I have taught about for years. Mr. Trudeau is right! Climate change does not have to be just a challenge. It is an opportunity to develop new, clean energy technologies that will create new jobs and potentially provide huge economic growth. This is what the world needs to be focused on. It is time to discharge our addiction to fossil fuels.

There seems to be some indications that world leaders are serious about reducing greenhouse emissions. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi has stated: “The sun is the source of all energy.”  He apparently is enthusiastic about solar energy and in January set an investment target of $100 billion in India’s solar sector by 2022. The United Kingdom has committed to phasing out coal plants entirely by 2025. In Canada the province of Alberta announced a climate change strategy that includes a carbon tax, a cap on tar sands emissions, a phasing out of coal-fired electricity, and an emphasis on wind power. These are all steps in the right direction.

On Monday, Pope Francis said it’s “now or never” for the international community to start effectively curbing climate change. He said, “Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.” (see World leaders must listen to Pope Francis). I believe Pope Francis is correct. I sincerely hope that the leaders of our world are serious about curbing climate change. The planet that we leave behind for our children must be a planet that is habitable. World leaders must get it right this time or our planet will become a vastly different planet; a planet with less habitable landmass, a planet with more deserts than we can ever imagine. A planet where there is little fresh water left to be found since much of our fresh clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdwater supply is in the glaciers that are disappearing. That’s not mentioning the numerous plant and animal species that will likely disappear because of global warming. (see Consequences of Global Warming).  The list goes on. It is time to get serious about curbing climate change. That doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I applaud those leaders who have already committed to change.

Here is an interesting website to check out: Time to Choose