I’m worried about Santa Claus. While physicists have speculated—amusingly but rather Scrooge-like— about his existence, my concern is whether Santa and his entire operation are sustainable. A few observations:
1. Health. “Without your health, you have nothing” or so every relative older me has told me at least once. Santa appears to face two issues. First, by all accounts, he’s obese. That puts him at heightened risk for a range of chronic diseases. We know poor diets and sedentary lifestyles are the primary causes of obesity (I don't know Santa’s family history, so I have no idea if he is genetically predisposed to obesity). The North Pole seems to offer limited fruits and vegetables. And the cold probably seriously limits outdoor activity. Next he’s often pictured smoking a pipe. Santa, it’s 2017. Everyone knows smoking is terrible for your health. Quit. For the kids (or for the elves who work for you and are exposed to second hand smoke). Finally, Santa seems quite old. He exerts a lot of energy in one night, up and down chimneys, carrying presents. How long can he keep this up?
2. Safety. Everyone understandably is worried about terrorism these days. Is Santa a potential target, given his high profile? Maybe, but I’m more concerned about road (air) safety. No one knows his precise flight plan. And his sleigh does not appear to have a seatbelt or airbags. This seems to be an easy issue to fix.
3. His business model. There are potentially serious issues with Santa’s business model. He never charges for presents. That’s mighty generous, but where is his revenue stream? How does he stay in business? Perhaps he’s cutting production costs. How? Are the elves paid minimum wage? Is Santa complying with other labor regulations? With growing attention to corporate social responsibility, it’s inevitable that someone will ask about Santa’s supply chains. He needs to get out front of this story and ensure his supply chains are free of trafficked, forced, or child labor. Related to this, the way he works his reindeer might attract the attention of animal rights groups. He probably should address this too.
4. Finally, climate change. The polar cap is melting. I don’t know how close the melting is to Santa’s workshop, but he needs a contingency plan. Relocating closer to the equator (though not too close to a coastline) might help, while also enabling him to eat better and exercise more. It’s potentially a win/win situation.
Anticipating the impact of climate change, addressing any potential human rights issues in his supply chains, and getting healthier would position Santa to achieve long-term sustainability. That would make a lot of kids happy.