This article was written by Bev Banks. Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2019. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.
Lawmakers met with Santa Claus and children in his “Santa Squad” last week in the Capitol to talk about climate action.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) brought a few kids to the House floor during a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act conference report on Dec. 11.
“He [Blumenauer] actually took Will and Ava onto the floor, and they learned to vote,” said Tanya Aranguren, a mother whose children were part of Santa’s delegation. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) “actually came over and taught them how to cast a vote and what that means.”
Blumenauer’s staff brought children ice cream and handed out bicycle pins to them during their visit.
Aranguren’s 8-year-old son, Will, and 6-year-old daughter, Ava, also met House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Brian Babin (R-Texas).
After the day was over, Aranguren said her daughter asked Santa, “Do you think we saved your home?”
A couple of the children admire the Capitol Rotunda during their visit. Tanya Aranguren
Elizabeth Brandt and her 4-year-old daughter, Natalia, spent the day on the Hill, as well. Brandt regularly speaks to lawmakers as a regional field manager for the advocacy group Moms Clean Air Force, but she said “being there with Santa makes it so much more special.”
Brandt enjoyed her interactions with Tlaib, who she said really took “a moment with the kids.”
When Brandt and her daughter spoke to E&E News, Natalia said, “I’m doing good behavior,” and her mother replied, “I think Santa really approves of us taking climate action.”
Brandt described Santa’s presence as an “icebreaker” and a respite from the negative energy surrounding impeachment.
“Being able to be with Santa can be an actual bipartisan moment, and it actually can create a bipartisan moment on climate change, which is unfortunately rare,” Brandt said.
For Aranguren, the experience helped encourage her kids to advocate for climate action.
“Publicizing the actual kids being in the Capitol and being on the Congress floor is a great way to show other kids that you know, yes, you may be small, but you can have a voice too,” Aranguren said.
Brandt felt her children were more confident now to stand up for their beliefs in the future.
“I think it’s empowering for them even if they don’t understand all of the abstractions,” Brandt said.
In addition to being a movement, “Save Santa’s Home” is a book that will be published in 2020.
A video preview of the book chronicled the journey of four children who travel to the North Pole and witness the melting of Arctic ice from climate change. The story referred to the monsters of coal, oil and natural gas as “fossil fools” who threaten Santa’s home.
Andrew Slack and Sean Presant co-authored the tale and hoped to create a storyline that would educate rather than scare kids about climate change.
“Why get a 5-year-old that afraid?” Slack said in an interview with E&E News. “If you can flip the story and allow them to experience themselves as a climate hero, that changes everything.”
Yesterday, Slack hosted a webcast on the story featuring climate activist Bill McKibben.
McKibben’s message to kids this holiday season was, “If for some reason Santa brings you coal, don’t burn it.”
The story of children saving the North Pole featured the use of solar panels to fight off the impacts of the “fossil fools.” McKibben applauded the book for pointing out the success of engineers in creating renewable energy capabilities.
“Cheap power from the sun is great news for everybody except the people who own coal mines and oil wells,” McKibben said in the webcast. “For them it’s a horrible threat to their wealth, and so they fight very hard.”
For Slack and Presant, Santa served as a revered figure whom children would listen to when it came to climate action. Slack said Santa was in many ways a Greta Thunberg to small children.
“She [Thunberg] has elevated science, that’s essentially what she’s done, to like a moral religion,” Slack said. “Santa does the same for small children, and in a way that’s jolly and jovial and imaginative.”