Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Claus' Adaptation Plans for the North Pole

I put together the following post for the Bay Area Open Space Council's blog, and it went live today: Santa Claus and the Melting North Pole: Is Christmas in Danger?

I'm reposting the text here:

Santa Claus and the Melting North Pole: Is Christmas in Danger?

By Silver Cherryblossom, Junior Wood Elf Correspondent to the North Pole

ATTENTION HUMAN CHILDREN: This message is from Elf Central in Muir Woods. We have been trying to reach you, but you might not have heard from the Muir Woods Elves before because we have had trouble getting our elf-mail (elf e-mail, which smells like peppermint) to transmit to human e-mail (which doesn’t smell like anything at all). If you get this message, then we’ve finally gotten the tinsel wires untangled. I hope this message gets to you, and it smells OK.

Your First Worry: How are Santa Claus and His Elves Doing with Climate Change?

FIRSTLY, Santa Claus says he is “fine, thanks for asking.” As long as humans continue to give each other gifts from the heart, he will be in good shape and Christmas will come on schedule, ice or no ice.
SECONDLY, the Ice Elves are very organized. They are really good planners – that’s how they are able to make your presents on time every year.  So, they started planning for climate change a long time ago. 

Of course, they have gotten really good with technology by making all your electronic toys.  So, if anyone can figure out what to do about climate change at the North Pole, the Ice Elves can.

If Christmas Will Be OK, Is There Anything That Santa and the Ice Elves Are Worried About?

Well, someone gave me a copy of Executive Memo XMAS-11-001 “On Climate Change and Its Effects RE: Santa’s Workshop Activities,” about the North Pole Workshop’s preparations for climate change.

I’m still just a Junior Correspondent, so I hope I don’t get in trouble for sharing this! (If I do, it might be a while before you get a message from me again!) The memo says it is “classified,” but I don’t know what that word means, so I hope it means that I should share it with everyone.


Executive Memo XMAS-11-001 “On Climate Change and Its Effects RE: Santa’s Workshop Activities”
By Junior Science Elf Frostbottom

Climate change is causing a lot of problems at the North Pole.  The three big ones are ice melting under the Workshop, getting fresh, non-salty water for the Workshop, and our neighbors who rely on ice—animals and humans— losing their homes.

          PROBLEM 1: Ice melting under the Workshop.
With the ice melting, it’s like the ground is moving!  The Workshop floor is already tilting where Mrs. Claus stores the old exercise bicycles (which are very heavy). This is only going to get worse as the ground gets warmer.

There used to be a LOT of ice up here which NEVER melted, and the ice prevented anybody from sailing a ship anywhere near the North Pole. We found
a group of scientists skiing near the Workshop in 2009 , and they said the North Pole might be a free-flowing ocean as soon as 2030. (That’s when today’s toddlers will be graduating from college)!

PROPOSED SOLUTION: Move the Workshop to an abandoned oil platform. We can call it Workshop Island. The reindeer might need their own platform for grazing and playing reindeer games.

QUESTION FOR SENIOR SCIENCE ELF: How can we generate electricity on Workshop Island? At the Workshop we have plenty of room for solar panels and windmills, but not on the oil platform. Can we use tidal and wave energy? We need to make enough energy for making toys AND gingerbread.

***NOTE TO SANTA: Look at this! A sea adventure resort built on an old oil platform! 

          PROBLEM 2: Getting water for the workshop.
Mrs. Claus needs the best-tasting fresh water for her delicious peppermint hot chocolate .  Right now, she uses melted ice.  Once the ice is gone, there will be nothing but salty sea water around us.
PROPOSED SOLUTION: Maybe… build a plant that removes salt from water (desalinize the water)?

NOTE FROM SENIOR SCIENCE ELF:  This creates a new problem, because removing salt from sea water takes a lot of energy and leaves behind icky salt sludge. What if instead, we collect rainwater and use less water? We should ask the Island Elves how they do it.

***NOTE TO SANTA:  Can you take shorter showers?

          PROBLEM 3: Our neighbors who rely on the ice— animals and humans— are losing their homes.
After all the ice melts, some animals who make the ice their home— like polar bears and walruses—  might have nowhere to go. Do they want to stay at the North Pole on their own abandoned oil platforms? We asked, and they said, “No, thanks, those are too small for us.” Do they want to live in zoos? They said, “No, thanks, we don’t want to give up our freedom.”

Our other neighbors at the North Pole are the people who have lived on the ice for centuries. These are the people humans often call Eskimos, even though there are actually many different nations living around the North Pole, including Inuit, Evenk, Yupik, and many others . We asked if they want their own abandoned oil platforms, and they said, “No, thanks, those are too small for us.” Do they want to move south to other lands? They said, “No, thanks, our culture is built on ice and snow: this is our home.”

These are our neighbors, and like any neighbors, we’ve always helped each other out when things have gone wrong… we should try to help them if we can.

PROPOSED SOLUTION: I don’t know. We need to keep talking to our neighbors and asking how we can help.

ANSWER FROM SENIOR SCIENCE ELF:  We can’t stop the ice from melting, but we can slow it down if we change how we do things. Can we get humans to slow climate change?

***NOTE TO SANTA: When you are traveling around the world, can you please tell the human children about ways to slow climate change so they can teach their parents? Maybe you can tell them to check these out:

    So, there you go, human children. Remember: don’t worry about Santa’s Workshop. The Ice Elves have it under control. Also:
  1. Keep learning about climate change and thinking of ways to slow it down. Ask your teachers about it!
  2. When you write your letter to Santa this year, also think about writing to the politicians who represent you in human government to tell them about the people, polar bears, and walruses who depend on the ice at the North Pole, and ask them to help them any way they can. (Get addresses for your representatives here: for the U.S. House of Representatives ; for the U.S. Senate ).
  3.  Try to use less water and electricity in your home. (How many ways can you think of to save energy around your house? ) You can help your parents save money and slow down climate change at the same time!
And the next time you visit Muir Woods, keep an eye out for elves and say hello if you see me (I’m the elf with my pointy ears tucked into my park ranger hat).

Merry Christmas!

Endnote: On Talking About Climate Change with Children

This is a note for adults talking to children (or, adults talking to their inner child) about climate change. Climate change is an overwhelming and scary problem: it can make you feel helpless. A 2010 UC Berkeley study showed that it is dangerous to be too apocalyptic when talking about climate change, inspiring denial instead of action. When talking to children about climate change, try to focus on positive actions they can take to improve the situation. The future is not written in stone, and the children of today may yet dream up solutions we adults haven’t even considered yet!

The piece above is intended for children ages 10-13 (they might have stopped believing in Santa, but are still entertained by the idea). If you have younger kids, consider reading parts of it out loud to them and using it to open a conversation where they can ask questions and brainstorm their own solutions.

Here are some tips about talking to children about climate change:

  1. Talk about positive actions that they can do now.
  2. Try to keep it simple. It is a complex problem with a lot of dispute about the definition of the problem, its causes and solutions, but you can bottom-line it: scientists have shown us that the earth is warming, and it is changing our environment.
  3. Emphasize that we are all a part of the problem and the solution. Even people who question the reality of climate change are asking hard questions that can make our solutions better!

About the author: Silver Cherryblossom (AKA Sara Moore, of the blog, Junior Wood Elf Correspondent to the North Pole, is stationed at Elf Central in Muir Woods. She researches and writes about climate change adaptation. While she has never seen Santa Claus in person, the Ice Elves reliably send peppermint-scented elf-mail keeping her updated about Santa’s plans for dealing with the melting ice at the North Pole. She thanks all her friends who pitched in to help write this article.

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