It’s not the fault of the Baby Boomers

It isn’t, honestly.

I was talking to my father in-law over the weekend, and we were discussing the current plight of the world, and the expectation that the current 0-20 generation are expected to have less than we have enjoyed.

That’s less of almost everything except hassle and temperature. Less water, less energy, less fuel, less growth. Fundamentally we all need to put significant effort into making what we have go further, and use less of our store of finite resources. Yeah, I know, I do bang on about this, but it is true.

If I look back at how we have behaved over the past 60 years,  I probably should not be surprised at how we have got where we are. One activity that struck me as a particularly good example of how things were,  was the Sunday afternoon drive. We would all pile into the car and drive : not going anywhere in particular, just driving around, looking at the countryside and listening to the transistor radio strapped to the dashboard. That would be a complete anathema to kids today. Not just the seemingly pointless driving and the fact that they can only rarely glimpse the  hundreds and thousands of Lapwings and Starlings that we saw, but that cars did not even come with radios ….

We followed our parent’s guidance and aspirations, as you do. We bought more stuff, we ate more food, we wanted bigger houses and faster cars. We demanded more, because we were told that in the 21st Century we would have unlimited energy, flying cars, more leisure time, silver jump suits and jet packs. We’re still smarting from the lack of jet packs.

We were led by our parents to waste, though I am sure they did not realise that that was the message we were taking away. They had lived through at least one world war, and rightly they felt that they deserved a good life. They had to put up with hardships, but they came through, and when the world economy took off, they benefited.

In the booming post war period, Careers, Teenagers and Marketing were invented. People were getting more and more money with promotions, and they wanted to spend it on themselves and their kids. Marketing simply and easily guided them to the stores to do that.

The economy was growing fast enough to deliver wonderful new luxuries to us and our parents, and none of us gave it any real thought. Until the early 1970s, it was hunky dory. That little blip when the oil producing countries made us ration fuel was a bit of a worry, but the optimists won, and we soon forgot all about how life might be without our cars.

So, as the 70-90 generation hits the end of their lives, they can look back remember a generally pretty good time. They may possibly have had the best lives of any general Homo Sapien population.

The Baby Boomers that followed them have also had a pretty good time, but it isn’t totally their fault that world is how it is. They ( OK, We ) just didn’t really have a cause to think until recently. We were never told by our parents to stop consuming, as more consumption was a measure of success, we all consumed more to show our success.

I’m sure we would have acted differently if someone had provided convincing arguments as to why we needed to show some reserve when buying and wasting stuff. I’m also sure that making food into a cult and the de rigueur wearing of braces ( suspenders for those in the colonies ) in the 80s was a bit of a mistake. Just look at how much food we have wasted in the last 30 years. Though, thankfully, fashion has calmed down a little.

As things got better, science helped us to live longer and reduce infant mortality. The population expanded like topsy, maintained good health for longer, bought ever more stuff, and wasted ever more irreplaceable stuff.

So unless we noticed ourselves, and acted off our own bat to change our ways, we were guaranteed to get to where we are now.

No-one came to us with convincing arguments about restraint and concern.

No-one that most of noticed.

Except there was someone, shouting quietly : Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. How prophetic she was.

It’s a shame that there was not an equivalent economist doing the same. Well, maybe there was, but in this case, there was absolutely no-one listening.


Edit : you can read a copy of Silent Spring online at Google books


4 responses to “It’s not the fault of the Baby Boomers

  1. Well – there was the 70s oil shock, and there was “Limits to growth” and many people were convinced that things were going to fall apart sooner or later because growth obviously couldn’t continue indefinitely, etc. But then the 80s happened and everyone forgot about all that. And now we’re going to see real global catastrophe.

  2. Blame doesn’t help anyone anyway. Everyone, to some extent, has lived according to limited information. The real question now is whether we are motivated enough to change the way we consume. And can we change rapidly enough to make a significant difference. I’m concerned that young adults now have not known any different and they will need to make changes to a lifestyle that they have never known.

    • Hi Sarah. Yep – blame doesn’t help, it’s just that people are doing so without really thinking. I’m not sure that we are all motivated sufficiently. I try, you try, and other try, but there are so many people who are not, and only whine about having to recycle ( and we all know that is only the very first step on understanding what straits we are in ).

      I can only comment on how I see young people in the media, but they do have a better understanding of the issues even though many ( OK, most ) do not get any kind of role model from their parents. It’s really the same the pre-boomers and the boomers. We all too often take on the attitudes of our parents without questioning soon enough.

      There are some countries much better than others at this – and it does run by country : Germany being the best overall. Here in the UK we are learning ( our local town just went over 50% of all waste being recycled for the first time ), but I have to say that the US is not really up where it should be.

      Speaking for the UK, and to a large extent most of the EU, there is an increasing level of legislation making us change our habits. Maybe that is how we make that significant difference. I don’t see that anything based on voluntary actions will make the change we need. Sadly.

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