An Unexpected Environmental Justice Holiday Film

Artwork: Christmas Eve, Calum Clow, Mixed media on paper, 2021

The holidays are a busy time of year, and because of priorities like gift shopping and planning family gatherings, it can be easy to disconnect from some of the things that matter to us. Finding a balance between the festivities of the holidays and staying informed on current events is a challenge. This past week I have not devoted as much of my time and energy towards researching environmental justice as I would like to because the holidays are upon us. That being said, I rediscovered a film I used to watch around this time of year as a child called “The Night They Saved Christmas”. This TV movie from the 1980’s is accessible through numerous streaming services, including free ones, and readily available online which is another reason I wanted to share about it. Upon giving the film a fresh watch for myself, I found some overlap with my environmental justice research I wanted to document. Especially since this is a family friendly movie and could open the door to explaining environmental justice concepts to children.

The movie is about a billion dollar oil company detonating several zones around the North Pole in hopes of finding oil. The plot revolves around the family of a man who works as a planner for these operations located nearby. A person claiming to be the Chief Elf of Santa Claus, finds our protagonist and warns him that the detonations are extremely close to “North Pole City” and have potential to destroy an entire civilization and a holiday tradition for people all around the world. From there some of our main characters end up in the North Pole, Santa meets the family, and they devise a plan to stop further detonations. 

Delving into a fictional work like this for several hours can provide nuance for real-life situations. That is certainly the case for this movie, as it is by no means the definitive environmental justice film. That being said, the situation of a small community with their way of life and safety at risk because of corporate interests resembles very real challenges faced by marginalized communities affected by pollution. I also liked the way the movie humanizes this fossil fuel industry employee. We see and understand that this person is trying to do a job well, provide for his family, and doesn’t want to harm anyone. I think this is a positive message as society has conversations about a just transition away from fossil fuels. A just transition includes taking measures to ensure current fossil fuel industry workers are protected and have access to good paying, alternative jobs with benefits and unions. It can be easy to dehumanize the “other side”, so to speak, but at the end of the day there is common humanity between all of us. And recognizing that humanity, respecting one another, and working together matches the spirit of this time of year. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

To get engaged with environmental justice in the new year, please consider joining 

On Earth Peace’s Environmental Justice Facebook Group. Visit the group here.

 


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