Hi, Boomer here. ⇒Wait! Don’t click away!⇐ I have an important personal opinion to relay! First off, I understand many of your concerns relating to the state of the world as passed on by my generation. In particular, you are in a world that is seemingly unbalanced by the devastating effects of climate change, and I understand your anger at the apparent inaction of my fellow Boomers in that regard. People, I get it.
I believe that previous generations—Boomers included—largely treated the Earth as a disposable resource by polluting without care and altering landmasses and waterways to meet financial, habitation, or transportation needs. However, in doing these things, Boomers followed the teachings of their forebears, and we continued a longstanding tradition of destroying the Earth for profit and convenience.
Additionally, I believe the drive to sacrifice our world for monetary gain truly gained momentum well over a century ago in the Industrial Revolution and the Technological Revolution that came later. Goods formerly made by hand were produced in massive quantities by factories that burned unimaginable quantities of wood and coal even as they discharged raw wastes into the environment. Through the two revolutions, Earth’s true suffering from humanity’s greed began.
The Technological Revolution largely ended when World War I began in 1914, and that year is important as it’s just about the mid-point between 1901 and 1927, the date range that defines the birth of the Greatest Generation. MIllennials, that is an important demarcation point as the people who lived through World War II were accustomed to a world with air tainted by factory smoke and water sometimes laced with chemical runoff. To them, what we now call pollution was called progress, and the emissions from everything from cigarettes to heavy industry were signs of the nation’s financial might and a high standard of living.
The Greatest Generation gave rise to my generation, the Boomers. As they raised us, they did so with many of their values intact. Smoking was still cool, auto emissions were merely signs of mechanical power, and what was good for business was good for America. The beliefs of our ancestors continued on, and we were the latest recipients of beliefs dating back many decades. However, the world was changing even as our beliefs remained rooted in the past.
The first sign of change that I recall came in the 1970s. Several scientists of the time spoke of Earth’s imminent demise, that the world’s climate was changing, and humanity would be forced to adapt to life in new temperature extremes. We were heading for a new Ice Age, they warned! That’s right, my Millennial friends, the first widespread climate change warning based on the effects of rampant pollution came in the form of dire predictions about global cooling.
Let that sink in for a minute. According to scientists and news accounts of the time, we were going to freeze our rear ends off in blizzards the world over. Of course, it didn’t happen, but the knowledge that a warning about our impending doom from pollution-based global cooling was absolutely wrong and unfounded stayed with many of us. We remembered. And when scientists later reversed course and declared our impending doom from pollution-based global warming, many of us were skeptical or entirely unmoved.
To ask many Boomers to accept global warming as a reality is to ask them to ignore social precepts that were imprinted on them almost from the moment their inverted backsides were slapped in delivery rooms. Doing so is to ask them to embrace the concept that they are wrong, their parents were wrong, their grandparents were wrong, and so forth. I believe it is the ultimate uphill battle of persuasion, and I see many Boomers fighting on the sides of tradition and disbelief.
Millennials, you exist in the age of Internet 2.0, and you leverage that newer technology far more than Boomers even though many members of my generation are well-versed in technology. You are not dependant on printed newspapers and you don’t have to wait until six o’clock in the evening to see the events of the day on news broadcasts. Such was life for us when we were your age, but the Internet makes you better informed than mine or any other prior generation.
Your electronic connection to the world renders the printed encyclopedias I used obsolete, and it places you in a position to readily understand critical issues of local, national, and global importance. I believe your birth in the new age and your easy access to information largely underpins the basis of your perspective and explains why yours is the generation that is cutting so many cords to the past. One such cord was the lingering belief that our world is somehow limitless, self-renewing, and immune to the works of humanity.
Keep cutting the unwanted cords to the past and know that many of my fellow Boomers are cutting by your side. Not all, mind you, but a lot certainly are. My generation largely remains as wrapped in its upbringing as all prior generations, but that bind is neither absolute nor all-encompassing. Talk with Boomers. Engage them. You just might find that all of us don’t stare helplessly as our microwave ovens endlessly blink “12:00,” and you may also find many hearts that are sympathetic to your views on climate change and other vital causes.
All the best,