So this is Christmas?

The year was 1971, our world was in turmoil. The United States began a second decade of involvement in Vietnam, A Belfast Bar Bomb killed 15 people. Decimal currency was launched in Britain.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang to the world from their crumpled New York double bed, while we all intoned mournfully ‘So this is Christmas’. Fast forward half a century and start singing. The same song.

“War Is Over [If You Want It]” is a kind of love letter to humanity.  ‘If You Want It’ reminding us that, if we want a better world, we need to be the change we want to see.

But for 50 years no one took a blind bit of notice. And 2021 will wake to global challenges ballooning to dizzying heights. We still march to the drum beat of war, wrap our oceans in plastic, rasp our way through our oil-polluted lives and spray our crops and critters to extinction. And suddenly – BOOM – a Coronavirus pandemic rampages through our communities, unannounced.

And so this is Christmas, but not as we know it. Lennon’s 1971 song has our nearest and dearest of all ages celebrating the festival with us, as they have for centuries. The likelihood is that, in 2020, not many of them will be beating a path to our front door to have fun.

Lennon also wishes us a Happy New Year, hoping that it will be one without fear. Let’s hope, indeed, but don’t hold your breath. Instead, let us focus on the parts of our lives we have a fighting chance of changing: How we live. What we buy. What we eat. What we throw away.

Like so many other troubadours down the ages, Lennon laments how it’s all gone wrong. And yes, our world has certainly gone apocalyptically pear shaped,  largely because we are trashing it. In just nine years time, by 2030, we will need two planets to provide the resources for our consumption and absorb our waste. And that is about as viable as holding your breath and hoping.

The silver lining of the pandemic is that it has finally united us all, across the globe in conducting a massive reality check.

In the UK we find that a typical household spends over £2,500 each month. In December that same household spends a whopping £1,000 extra. On what? More stuff. Can we even remember what stuff we splashed the cash on last Christmas? No, we need to be cleverer than that, to think long term. So here is a Christmas wish list from a slowly choking Planet Earth:

Christmas cards: Make your own digital cards. If you don’t have a computer, persuade someone else to send yours off. Give the cash saved to local charities. Shop bought charity cards typically donate just 15p in the pound to charity, while you can give 100p in the pound to your local charity. It’s a no-brainer.

Christmas presents: Make jam, bake cookies, knit scarves, invent toys, plant seeds, dig gardens or walk dogs for someone who can’t. That’s your exercise sorted. Use your imagination, your personal stock of pent up talent will provide presents for all. Everyone will be thrilled with your offerings. Promise.

Christmas dinner: Treat the turkey to Christmas, let it live. Cook up all your traditional, mouth watering Christmas dinner trimmings and buy in one of those delicious veggie mains to top your culinary extravaganza. No one will complain. Guaranteed.

Christmas tree: Get a UK grown real one, it’s much more environmentally friendly than a plastic one shipped in from China, and it smells nicer. By reducing the emissions from transporting trees, and recycling them by chipping, real Christmas trees become climate positive – creating, while they grow, an environment beneficial to removing carbon from the atmosphere. Win-win.

Christmas entertainment: Head over to the internet for the vast array of virtual board games, from Trivia to Cluedo, to play with absent friends. Or create your own virtual Christmas party lounge with Mozilla Hubs and invite in friends and family. No internet? Play trivia games over your speaker phones or watch telly together, while staying on the phone. Eat chocolate.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono urged us to look back at what we have done since last Christmas. Not a pretty picture, so let’s start repainting our future.  There is no time like the present so best begin now. We can do this!

We will have reinvented the Season of Good Will to suit our Modern Times. Now let’s roll out our new sustainable lifestyle into 2021 and beyond. The planet – and your children and grandchildren will breathe a lot easier as a result.

On their behalf, thank you!