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.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.
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?
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.