The COVID-19 pandemic has left our supply chains in disarray. Ships are stuck at sea, and there aren’t enough truck drivers on land. So, important things such as building materials and medical equipment aren’t getting to where they’re needed.
While this is a legitimate concern that the country absolutely needs to address, I’d like to spend this moment on the issue that many commentators in the American media seem more focused on: “Will Christmas presents arrive on time?”
A reporter asked President Joe Biden that question at a news briefing earlier in the week. While I’m sure retailers are worried about supply chain issues impacting their bottom lines in the coming months, this hardly seems like something for the public to waste mental energy on — in mid-October!
Still, fears are surging. Right now, Amazon is telling customers to start their holiday shopping early. This self-serving advice comes from the same company that year after year destroys millions of unsold or returned products. If this holiday gift crunch is as severe as Amazon is painting it, perhaps the online retail giant will consider changing its policies.
On the other side of the world, China’s manufacturing industry is facing an energy crunch. The country’s political leaders are scrambling to feed its energy-hungry factories, in part, because of skyrocketing demand for consumer goods. Although China has been transitioning toward using more renewable energy, the government is ordering coal plants to increase output in an attempt to meet demand.
Unfortunately, a lot of these coal power plants will power factories making disposable, superfluous stuff such as cheap pens and rubber duckies. Come Christmas, millions of Americans will undoubtedly stuff stockings with these entirely forgettable things. And all the while, our climate is getting more emissions from coal.
There has to be a better way to do this. Perhaps, we should start by pushing Amazon, and companies like them (say, clothing giants Burberry, H&M or Nike), to waste less. Then, we can push manufacturers to take responsibility for the waste their products create. Finally, we can encourage a societal shift toward less waste and more meaning.
It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: The holiday season is about more than material things. The reason we give gifts is to make people in our lives feel special. And with a little thought, we can absolutely make our friends and family feel special without increasing demand for coal energy in China.
For example, last year, many people weren’t able to visit family for Christmas because of COVID-19. With most Americans now vaccinated, many families will feel safer getting together for the holidays this year. Do you plan on bringing a little holiday cheer home for the holidays this year? For many of us, that could be the best gift of all.
Communications Associate, The Public Interest Network
Taran works on national communications and media relations for The Public Interest Network, particularly with U.S. PIRG’s Make It Toxic-Free, Beyond Plastic and Transform Transportation campaigns. Taran lives in Boulder with his wife and two sons. He enjoys outdoor sports such as biking, hiking and skiing in the winter.