June 06, 2011
A Pole Without a Santa Claus
I am a climate change refugee. Until recently, I, along with the other elves, inhabited the North Pole, living and working at Santa's workshop. We had seen the end of the ice cap coming for years with ever larger summmer melt-offs but were in denial until it finally disappeared. Part of the denial stemmed from the fact that we had long since outsourced all production to China and other third world countries. "How much ice would really be needed to maintain a headquarters at the North Pole?" we thought. Lists were computerized as was all design work. We no longer needed the warehouses for paper storage of current work or archives. Productivity was up, yet square-footage was down: Life was good. We managed to digitize nearly all the records going back to the beginning, and fortunately we were able to back it up to the cloud before our server farm was swallowed up by the Arctic Ocean. Children won't even noticed that we've "moved."
Most people don't realize this, but we got our start in the seasonal gift-giving business with Hanukah. It really was a small family operation back then. There have never been all that many Jews, and let's face it, knocking out a few menorahs and dreidles is trivial compared to the diversity and quantity of what the Christian kids expect these days. Who would have suspected that when we signed-on to do Christmas, we were contributing to our own eventual demise?
So our quaint village and workshop have now slipped beneath the waves. We'll be able to keep the classic images going for a while given the state of photoshopping and CGI, but it will never be quite the same. You probably got a taste of the next-generation imagery with the Rankin/Bass-like, faux stop-motion, Mel Gibson-narrated special that came out a couple years ago. You know, the one in which the tears of the world's children soaked up all the excess carbon dioxide and saved the north pole (and of course, Christmas!). Treacly beyond belief, but nonetheless a big hit despite in reality being too little, too late (and people accuse of us of magical thinking!).
The higher temperatures have been especially hard on the reindeer. We're doing what we can with traditional selective breeding but because the red-nose and heat-tolerance traits interfere with each other's expression, it has been pretty tough to select for both simultaneously. Consultants have suggested genetic engineering as a possible magic bullet but we're trying to steer clear of that for now. We don't want to have to spin GMO reindeer on top of everything else.
We nearly lost Santa to heat stroke (twice!). Gastric bypass helped him drop some weight and we're now using a much looser weave for the red suit fabric. So far, so good.
Like many peoples deprived of their traditional territories, some of us have not taken it so well, and substance abuse has become common. Some have taken to fermenting and distilling fruitcake. The real thrill seekers add some hallucinogenic Amanita mushrooms and "fly" like our ancestors did. These so-called "cakeheads" are giving the rest of us a bad name. We're all in emotional pain, but what choice do we have but to move on? Most of us choose to.
Elfin communities have sprung up all over the globe. We had hoped to all relocate to some glaciers in the Himalayas or Andes, but those are not likely to last that much longer, so it would be a temporary measure at best (FWIW, traditional carols on panpipes aren't too bad). A few have relocated to those highlands anyway, but for the rest of us it is Diaspora"R"Us.
Not surprisingly we have gravitated towards the performing arts. There are the spoken word performer "Mother Elfin' Helpers" in New York, whose Gil Scott-Heron-inspired "The Meltdown Will Not Be You-Tubed" has made them quite wealthy. There is also a larger community in Los Angeles that tried to get into the biz. A few have become successful, but the competition from other groups of little people has been fierce. Some have branched into adult videos. The "Santa's Ho's" franchise was somewhat successful for a while, but has been dying a pretty rapid death since the novelty wore off (most aficionados of the genre agree that it peaked in the third iteration).
I'm actually writing this from Mumbai, a great, vibrant metropolis; but the heat! I've tried to acclimate, but you don't want to see my electric bill. Fortunately, there is a Bangladeshi refugee community here to commiserate with about the "old days" though they don't mind the temperature at all (They claim it is a dry heat! Compared to what they've been through, I guess it is.).
We elves hope to all reunite somewhere in northern Europe before too long. The Gulf Stream has slowed to a crawl and is expected to stop at any time. Temperatures there will soon plummet. We are negotiating an agreement with Norway so that we may settle somewhere in the Svalbard archipelago. Spitsbergen already has the global seed vault and we wouldn't mind adding care-taking to our duties, but we'd be fine on any of the other islands. We need a homeland and the Norwegians can use our cash now that North Sea oil production has fallen off. It won't be nearly as cold as the ice cap once was, but it will have to do.
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