Christmas by the Numbers

Trent Ernst, Editor
Every year, North Americans spend $455-billion on Christmas presents. In Canada alone, we spend $4.8 billon. 
At the same time, over three quarters of a million people don’t have clean water to drink. That’s more than the population of North America—Canada, the United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba and all the rest of Central America and the Caribbean combined. 
Every day, lack of clean water kills more people than nearly any other cause. In the course of a year, the equivalent of the entire population of Alberta dies from water borne illness. No war is so deadly, no other disease claims so many lives. 
We’re the lucky ones, here in Tumbler Ridge. We have access to clean water. We forget how foundational water is to life. Without water, life itself does not exist. 
But less than 100 years ago, these were our problems, too. New York once suffered the same infectious, water-borne diseases that we now equate with third-world countries, and child death rates were as high as they are now in sub-Saharan Africa. 
It may seem like an insurmountable problem: to get clean running water to everyone in the world. But experts estimate that it would cost $20-billion to provide clean water for everyone. To put that into perspective, $20-billion is less than 5percent of what is spent on Christmas presents each and every year.  
There are a number of organizations providing clean water in developing countries. Living Water International ( is a Christian organization that promotes a program called The Advent Conspiracy. While the message is directed at Christians, the meaning is applicable for all: Give the gift of you this year. Don’t spend more money, spend more time. Give more presence, not presents. 
Forgo the ugly sweater that’s two sizes too small, and give people your time. Get together with friends and family. Talk, eat, sled, bake, read, play. Make gifts. Bake cookies. Consumerism, says the Advent Conspiracy promotional video, does not equal happiness. It does not equal memories. And it does not equal meaning. These things are found in our relationships with each other, not in the stuff we have. 
Having saved money on Christmas presents, you can now donate to charitable organizations, like Living Water International, or is another popular charity dedicated to clean water for everyone. According to, the real issue is not one of scarcity, it is one of access. Fortunately, says’s website, “we know how to bring people clean water and improved sanitation. We’re not waiting for a magic cure. And the solutions are simple and cost-effective. On average, every US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return on eight US dollars.” Here’s the deal. If the average Canadian spends $1137 on Christmas gifts and travel and all the rest, then five percent of that is $56.85. Are you willing to donate $60 to charity this year? 
If everyone in Tumbler Ridge were to donate that to charity, we could raise $154,000 towards providing clean water for the rest of the world. While that is a far cry from $20-billion, it is a good start.