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Planet Earth to Santa (12/14/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
A recession can translate into “thrift,” a word that causes Wall Street to shudder.

Today’s’ treasures are tomorrow’s junk. As money gets tighter, the habit of accumulating more and more spendy luxury items and useless stuff just because we want to have it may be a thing of the past. Better still, in this global society, we may finally be recognizing the desperate needs of our fellowmen all over the world and how we might be able to do some good for others.

The abused earth cries out in disregard as well. All house owners could learn from the eccentric TV host of “Living With Ed,” who’s devoted to conserving and protecting Mother Nature. Maybe he goes overboard at times, like timing his wife’s showers and collecting rain water, but nobody can deny that Ed Begley Jr. is one terrific Santa for the Planet!

Older Americans on fixed incomes face record costs to heat their homes this winter. Those who heat with natural gas paid, on average, $855 last winter, compared with an expected $1,017 this year. Total income in more than a third of older households falls below $20,000 a year. Christmas gift ideas! Remember the forgotten and forlorn with warm pajamas, robes, long underwear, and blankets.

When things seem to be looking bleaker than ever, Congress may be playing Santa Claus for low-income households, who can apply for assistance from the “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.” This fall Congress doubled LIHEAP funding for fiscal year 2009, which has raised the total available funds above $5 billion.

Tomorrow’s innovations could lead to an environmental boon! A Texas A & M study found that the main cause of the food price hike in the U.S. is not bio-fuel but the spike in oil prices, which affects agricultural production and transport. A large-scale shift to solar requires expensive hardware and high labor costs, but technological advances have helped cut costs by some 80% since 1980.

Environmental concerns include natural disasters of great catastrophic magnitude worldwide. What’s so noteworthy about a rundown village named Kivalina, an island settlement, home to 400 Inupiat Alaska natives living off the NW coast of Alaska?

Surrounded by ice, except during a brief summer when it melts, Kivalina has been a victim of erosion, literally dropping off into the ocean. Erosion has shrunk the island by nearly 20 acres over the past fifty years. A $2.5 million seawall built in 2006 was washed away within a month of completion. For the Inupiat, moving off the island, the only home they’ve ever known, is inevitable.

We can all be Santas for the environment in our own conscious ways. The June Reader’s Digest ran a powerful story of a caring teacher and 900 students who reached across a continent to save the desolate village of Kathungu, Kenya. Animals contaminated the rivers, their sole water supply. In the hot season the water dried up completely. Young girls had to spend up to 60% of each day walking some four miles to distant water sources, which kept them from attending school.

Compassionate New Brighton, MN, school teacher Patty Hall organized her students in an effort that raised $12,000 in six months, which made it possible to build an 8-foot-high sand and concrete dam. It traps and filters water to drink and use year-round.

Hall’s efforts became known as “H2O For Life,” consisting of 14 schools who have collectively raised $130,000 to bring clean water to communities in Africa and Central America.

“Planet Earth to Santa, Please, Santa, don’t add more stuff to the waste piles this Holy season. As you make your rounds this Christmas, please extend my message to all humans that a weary Mother Nature has given all she can. Her time is running out. A gift ‘exchange’ from people to Earth is long overdue.”

“Planet Earth to Santa, Do you read me? Pick up, Nick!”…and to all a good night!

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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