Today, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, activists in both London and Norwich dressed up as Santas Against Excessive Consumption and hit the high streets to sing a different tune to the usual buy, buy, buy madness of the holiday season.
In Norwich, bearing a festive banner reading Lapland is Melting and singing subverted Christmas carols (Welcome to Consumer Wonderland, Oh Little Town of Chapelfield, etc.), the Santas set up outside the temple to consumption that is Chapelfield Mall.
Many stressed-out shoppers broke into smiles of recognition as the lyrics reached their ears: ‘Hit the malls with wads of money fa la la la / Breathing air that’s stale and sterile fa la la la’ or ‘To some folks Christmas means a time for gathering with friends / But TV says it's time for pricey gifts and selfish ends’. Mall security however were not so pleased with the ‘please don’t shop here’ tunes, and the Santas were moved on – but not before sending a streak of sanity through consumer wonderland.
The Santas’ carols also highlighted the fact that binge consumption at Christmas-time is directly linked to climate change (‘This shopping toil is wasting oil’). Holiday food, travel, lights, and gifts produce on average 650 kg of CO2 emissions per individual. In total, that’s 5.5% of the yearly carbon footprint of the UK.
‘Every gift that's produced, transported, bought, used, and thrown away uses up energy that we don’t have, and creates emissions that our climate can’t handle. And if that product is made of plastic (like all those cheap toys that will be broken or discarded in a week’s time), then it’s literally made of oil’, said one Santa from Norwich Rising Tide.
Said another: ‘Us Santas aren’t suggesting you don’t give your loved ones presents this year. But why not make one or two of them, trade with friends, or buy locally. Think about the products you’re buying – what they’re made of, where they came from, how they got from there to here… and whether they’re actually going to make someone any happier.’