Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You're not done yet, hippies

Natasha is right: this is the most annoying trope ever.
It’s deeply frustrating to me to to hear someone with 20-30 years worth of professional experience, social networking, capital accumulation and political influence say that what they’re really waiting on is for a bunch of people with none of those advantages to come do what they couldn’t manage. In the same vein, I know that leading figures in many activist issue camps, whether elected officials or NGO staff, hope that young people, or bloggers, or ‘local’ activists, really, anyone else, will get out and start rocking the boat so it doesn’t have to be them. I’ve heard some version of this conversation too many times.

So, yes it would definitely be nice if the young people manage to fix the climate problem, and we should try, as should everyone else. It would be great if bloggers could manage all by ourselves to push the boundaries of debate and give cover to NGOs with large staffs and research budgets, or to elected officials with ready access to establishment media megaphones. But hey, a little help, that would make everything go better, right?
The idea that, somehow, it's up to my generation to fix the global climate mess that my parents' and grandparents' generations made -- while they go and retire, I suppose -- is not just silly, but deeply unfair on a global level.

Natasha mentions the obvious: youth activism is nice, but the gerontocracy still runs the show. But there's a more historical problem, too: the cohorts born since the end of the baby boom have, on average, grown in to periods of less economic growth, stagnating wages, and higher economic inequality. Oh, and we're paying higher taxes so our parents don't starve when they retire.

To put it another way, not only did the baby boom in the western countries cause so much of our current ecological nightmare, but they have throughout their lives been the ones best suited to solving it: they've had the most money, the most security, and the most political impact. And while I'm pretty sure my parents will read this and think, "hey, my life hasn't been easy street you little brat" the simple fact remains that, on a generational level, everyone before and after the baby boom has had it worse.

(Add in to the incontrovertible numbers on inequality and economic growth the future prospect that my generation will pay more for food, energy, and shelter, and it's possible -- though by no means certain -- that my life will feel a lot more like my grandparents than my parents.)

So no, if you were born in the years 1945-1964, don't pat your kids or grandkids on the head and think, "boy, they'll solve this environment thing and won't that be nice." This shit is your fault as much as it's anybody's, and it's your job as much as it's mine.

In short, stop voting Republican, old people. And if the Florida bluehair set puts McCain in the Oval Office, I'm using my secret Intertubes code to start Operation Soylent Green.


JimBobby said...

Whooee! Well Johnny, I was born way back in '49. I been a treehuggin' defender of ol' Mother Earth all my adult life. Sorry about yerr luck bein' born into an imperfect world not of your own makin'.

FYI, I'm active in environmental causes and with the Green Party. Young faces are a rare and most welcome sight at our various information meetings and presentation and green events. Most of the folks I see workin' on green causes are in their 40's or older. That may be on accounta where I'm lookin' but this ain't a situation that calls fer a generational war and a buncha finger-pointin' guilt trippin'. We need to all pull together to save the planet. Yer gonna be here after I'm gone and yer gonna hafta work on yer own and recruit the next generation.

The generations before me did their share of earth-rapin' but they also created things like the Sierra Club and environmental studies programs at universities. My generation wastes more than any before it like yer sayin'. We also invented the modern ecological movement as a political force. We invented Greenpeace, the WWF, the Green Party and a few hundred other environmental tools aimed at fixin' the mess.

Most of the treehuggers I know are grandparents, like me. Most of us grandparents admit to a renewed enthusiasm for savin' the planet after we became grandparents. We're lookin' further down the road now, even if we're gonna be pushin'up daisies when you an' my grandkids are fightin' the good fight fer ol' Mother Earth.

Oh, yeah. Us old codgers is long-winded sumbitches, too.


Catelli said...

Its being ignored this whole "get the youth on board!" thing was tried before. This was huge in the 80s, environmental programs were appearing in the schools, each school had a "earth club" of some sort. It genuinely felt like my generation was going to move forward and clean up after the JimBobby's in the world ;)

Well then we grew up, and guess what. People are people and other concerns started taking over. We still live the same way as our parents did. Oh sure, we may recycle more (or we may not), but in the long run we still waste a shit load of the earths resources to maintain our lifestlye.

Chet Scoville said...

Yes yes yes. Also, yes.

john said...

JB: The point is not, "wow boomers suck." The point is that boomers who think the environment is their kids fight (i.e., not you) have the wrong idea entirely.

I was responding directly to the oft-heard "get the youth to do it" that Natasha was citing, not slamming boomers.

That would be why I said "it's your job as much as it's mine."