Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Rather than bringing pine logs to the poor, 21st-century energy policies do the exact opposite. More children now shiver in the cold.
For those of us who live in northern climes, cold weather is not neutral. It is something from which we must protect ourselves.
Exhibit #1 is the marvelous Christmas carol, Do You Hear What I Hear? – sung by Bing Crosby in the video below, 50 years ago this year. The harshest lines in that song accuse wealth and power of ignoring a shivering child.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king:
Do you know what I know,
in your palace warm, mighty king?
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child, shivers in the cold...
Exhibit #2 is another Christmas hymn, Good King Wencelas. It tells us that the snow is “deep and crisp and even,” that the frost is “cruel,” and that a poor man is outdoors in the moonlight, desperately trying to gather sufficient fuel to keep himself warm.
Having become aware of the man’s plight, the Good King brings him “pine logs” as well as food and wine. In order to accomplish this compassionate deed, the monarch and his page endure “the rude wind’s wild lament,” the “bitter weather,” and the “winter’s rage.” The night grows darker, the wind blows stronger, and the young page is himself at risk of succumbing to the elements.
The song ends by assuring us that those who “bless the poor” – by ensuring they are sufficiently warm – will be rewarded in heaven.
My third exhibit is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – first published in 1843. Within the pages of this novella we read:
It was cold, bleak, biting weather…
The cold became intense…misanthropic ice…Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold…the hungry cold…
There are people in our world today, people of affluence and power, who regard energy (read: fuel) as their plaything. For years now, these people have proposed one measure after another which, whether by accident or design, has hiked the price of fuel. Directly and indirectly, this has made it more difficult for low-income people to afford heat. (In many jurisdictions, electricity prices have increased dramatically. Similarly, when poor people are obliged to pay extra for gasoline due to carbon taxes, they have less money to spend on other essentials, such as heat.)
Rather than bringing pine logs to the poor, 21st century energy policies do the exact opposite. More children now shiver in the cold.
Let us hope that, during this season of goodwill, some of the individuals promoting these policies will open their hearts and minds to the real-world consequences of their actions.