Lots of blame to go around as the clock ticks down on human Existence. I’ve been around the Millennial generation for awhile. I hung around with the younger people at Occupy Wall Street and stayed friends even after the movement collapsed. I wouldn’t be a Millennial for all the cocaine money in Bogota (Colombia, not New Jersey–even then I’d take anything before NJ). The economic collapse we’ve seen since the Nixon/Carter years, when we went from a society where the middle class was 70% of the population and is now around 35% (the article only goes up to 2012) is staggering. This is on top of usurious rates of inflation for ‘must-haves’ like housing, healthcare and college. The baby boomer generation (of which I’m at the tail end) got the safe union jobs and the housing boom paid for post- WWII. The economy for the GenX and Millennials is appalling, and they deserved better. And the boomers who voted for the tax cuts and other Reagan programs deserve some blame. I voted against the GOP and protested when I could, but the economy was hollowed out for payment to the 1%.
And over the past few years, the anger of the Millennial generation has shifted to climate issues. Millennials are increasingly holding their elders responsible for ruin of the planet. I’ve been adamant about our prospects for future life on this planet. The short form is here. Absent an enormous scientific breakthrough and uncharacteristic international cooperation, we’re just screwed. People should be angry about it. The folks at Extinction Rebellion have made it clear that they want massive change. I’m doing what I can.
But I want to be clear about something. The climate disaster in the US had been put down in the Concrete before I was born. My birth found me in a suburban sprawl neighborhood in Ohio, and that was the only housing being built when I was a kid. I remember complaining bitterly to my parents that there wasn’t a real tree within a mile of my house–they’d all been torn down by the developers and replaced with ‘saplings’ no thicker than an infant’s forearm. My parent’s answer was that they’d be bigger soon if I waited, one of many BS answers parents of the 50’s gave to their offspring about those spiffy new neighborhoods. The neighborhood was set up for cars. It was set up for people living the ‘American way of life’. It was what the government was paying for, ignoring urban areas where you could have walkable shopping and mass transit (and lower dependence/use of fossil fuels). GM and Ford just helped us defeat the NAZIS. Their payment for this is/was control of the built environment for the next century. It’s worthwhile to look at The End of Suburbia, which envisions an end to cheap oil, in order to get the mindset of the 50’s. You might also want to look up the writing of James Howard Kunstler on Suburbia.
Back to me. Back to my contemporaries. We didn’t ‘want’ suburbia. When my family moved to New Jersey, we were in an exurban sprawl area, with no local transit, no safe places to ride a bike, and hills and valleys that would give one shin splints if you walked. Of COURSE my generation needed a car–you needed to go six miles to get anything as complicated as a sweater or notebook. The supermarkets were in places nobody would walk OR bike-ride to. When I went off to college in Florida, things stayed the same–suburban buildout in Florida was nearly as bad, and building along the suburban model (which was developed for the North) meant Florida houses were built almost on top of each other, with shade trees knocked down and breezeways between houses crowded in.
After college, I ended up in New York primarily because it was one of the few places one could try to live without a car. But the NY of the outer boroughs were increasingly difficult to navigate by mass transit. I did my best–for all but a few years, all of my work travel was by subway or bus, and I went without a car for ten years. But it’s become increasingly clear that the people who are mis-managing NYC’s growth are as enamored of car culture as the late Robert Moses. There’s currently massive development of housing in my part of Brooklyn, but no new subways–and the trolley system (torn out by GM in the 50’s) will NEVER be replaced. Instead, there’s an onslaught of Uber and Lyft cars which put much of the borough in gridlock much of the time. That’s a spiffy new apartment–but how are you getting to WORK??
I didn’t vote for (or want) ANY OF THIS. Nobody asked me, either.
And most of the boomer generation didn’t have a voice in how this unfolded. By living in a city with walkable shopping and mass transit, my carbon footprint is nearly 50% below that of a comparable person in the ‘burbs’. I don’t see how we go forward with a car-based culture once you factor in depletion of fossil fuels and fighting global warming. My carbon footprint is pretty small relative to my fellow ‘muricans. But all that fossil fuel I ‘saved’ over my 50 plus years doesn’t keep one of our fighter-bombers in the air for 30 minutes, and they’ve been flying since the 1960s almost without pause.
I’m doing what I can do now. I know that isn’t much and it won’t save the planet unless I make a scientific breakthrough. My apologies. The issue was best summed up by the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.