It’s All Your Fault

I was listening to a thirty-something year old comedic-activist who went on a rant that if you over fifty years of age the environmental problems his generation must deal with is all your fault.  While our environmental problems didn’t start yesterday I think this comment is too general and needs restated.

butterfly

Being that I am one of those people over the age of fifty, I take offense to this generalized statement.  In the big picture I saw both the good and bad. We had polluted waters; smog-filled cities from factories; and large-scale agriculture that used some pretty dangerous chemicals but that was industry and industry has gotten worse not better.

We fought to pass the Clean Air Act and Cleaned up our waterways. Just when we thought we were making a difference our government opened the way to globalization and our factories, feeling hampered by EPA regulations, moved their businesses overseas where they could pollute worse than ever.

If we look beyond business, and look to individual actions, then no those of us over fifty weren’t wasteful or polluting. If anything the younger generation, of which this comedic-activist is a part of, are more wasteful and causing more problems than my generation ever did.

We had our bad habits or smoking which I’m pleased to see isn’t being passed on to the next generation at the same rates, and we liked to drive our cars that used leaded gasoline. We didn’t know better at the time.  We can also say it was our generation that moved to the suburbs. Regardless of where we lived, we weren’t wasteful on a large-scale.

I’d like to share a few differences between the life I grew up with, and continue to practice, and that of today.

  • We didn’t have take out coffee habits. No Starbucks for us.
  • We had one television in the house. It wasn’t on standby using electricity and it didn’t come with a remote control.  Our television went off the air at midnight except for Friday and Saturday nights when there was a late horror movie that ran until one.
  • We didn’t have entertainment systems.  Our television was a stand-alone item. We didn’t have surround sound, DVD players or game systems.
  • Central air didn’t exist in my part of the country and even in the southwest where people live in desert conditions they used swamp coolers for most of that time.
  • We weren’t a throwaway society.  Until the mid-80s we still had our shoes resoled and repaired rather than toss them out.
  • Speaking of footwear, we had a mending basket and darning sock to repair socks rather than toss them when they had a hole. When is the last time you heard of someone repairing a sock? They are cheap so we toss out the old and buy new ones today. If you want to get picky, we even mended our underwear!
  • We didn’t upgrade annually.  My grandparents bought their last house in 1966, when my grandfather passed away in 2002 he had the same phone hanging on the wall that was installed when they moved in.
  • Everyone had a small backyard garden and we shared our produce with neighbors and friends.  My grandfather grew the loveliest tomatoes and his rhubarb was highly demanded.  A friend of theirs grew zucchini and shared their bounty with us.  An added bonus of the back yard garden was that I never had a store-bought pickle until I was an adult.
  • I never saw a roll of paper towels in the family home until sometime in the early 90s. We used rags for cleaning.
  • You never saw more than one can or bag of trash set out for weekly pickup at any home. Can you say the same today?
  • We didn’t fly regularly. My grandfather was never on a plane, my grandmother flew just twice in her eighty-four years and I have only been on a plane twice myself.
  • Our favorite pastime wasn’t heading out to shop. Instead, we had weekly get-together with friends and family.
  • We didn’t redecorate our homes and never tried to copy magazine images of the perfect room.  We lived with what we had if it was still serviceable, and if it could be repaired we repaired and kept it.  I have a dresser in my bedroom that was purchased at a yard sale in 1977 for me to use when I entered high school. I’ve repaired it a few times and painted it to match my taste but I still have it.
  • We didn’t have takeout, there was no such thing.  If we wanted pizza, for instance, we made it from scratch, purchased a premade pizza from the deli section of our grocery store or went out for a sit down meal in a restaurant.
  • The items in our homes from our large appliances to our clothes and everything in between was made in the USA.  My grandfather worked at GE, he would only purchase items made by GE because they gave him a percentage of the purchase price back as one of his employee perks. He liked the refund but believed in buying products that would keep him in a job.
  • Our grocery stores were smaller because we didn’t have as many choices.  We didn’t feel the need to have hundreds of options for toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. Nor did we purchase ready-made meals. We knew how to cook and made our meals from scratch.
  • We had glass bottles not plastic.  Whether we bought milk, soda or juice our beverages came in glass and most were returnable and were reused. The milk in our stores was from a local dairy and the bottles were sterilized and reused over and over. Oh, and bottled water didn’t exist!

I could come up with many more examples of how we were more resourceful but I think you get the picture.

The point I wanted to make is that pointing the finger at individuals isn’t accurate. One of the biggest complaints about Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient, Truth was that it focused on things we could do as individuals to reduce our footprint when the biggest use of our resources, and the biggest waste and damage ecologically, is being done at the business level not in the family homes.

There’s a lot of work to be done, we can all agree on that. Instead of pointing fingers let’s work together and remember we can make changes by using our wallet.  The organic food market was basically non-existent twenty years ago today the organic market grows exponentially year after year because consumers demand it.

Regardless of when we were born let’s do something now to leave the next generation with a healthier world.

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30 thoughts on “It’s All Your Fault

  1. Well said, Lois. This problem started when man began. It’s been a steady progression. We are just more aware and there are people on both sides in both groups of ages. You are absolutely right, Lois. Blame serves no one. Stop blaming and come up with a solution. But of course the mouthy one can only hear himself/herself talk. I refuse to take the blame. I stop reading that kind of crap because it isn’t helpful and it raises my blood pressure. Hang in there.

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    1. I actually look forward to the weekly show by this comic, most weeks. He is intelligent, articulate and cares about most of the same things I do. Since our primary season it was his program that helped me deal with the stress I was feeling. Just now and then he hits a nerve and I feel the need to scream at the screen.

      That said, yes, since early times we have been making poor decisions on a societal level. I was thinking about Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History in which he pointed out that much of our problems with the Native Americans started because our military was losing men to the Native tribes because the men found their way of living more attuned to what they felt was a better way of living. So even then individuals when shown another way were open and willing to change how they lived it’s only on the larger scale that we make such poor choices.

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  2. Great post, Lois! And so true… Pointing fingers at individuals serves no purpose and the biggest polluters and the big, protected companies. We had a heck of a lot less waste when I was a kit, I can tell you that. And going out was a treat, not a 3-4 times per week thing…

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    1. Can you believe how many times a week people eat out, or grab fast food, not to mention the daily coffee habits. I’d like to give each of them a copy of Your Life or Your Money and make them add up the number of hours they work to pay for all those conveniences. But I don’t point these things out to them because I don’t want to come off as blaming them the way some want to blame my generation. I figure it’s best to just set the example in how I live my own life and if someone is inspired to change their life maybe they will talk to me.

      By the time I was in high school my grandparents were retired and my grandfather figured he saved a lot of money on gas (20 miles round trip daily) not working. So twice a month after church we would go out for a meal. It wasn’t any fancy place, and always had to be a restaurant that offered a senior discount lol. But on the weeks we didn’t a roast and huge kettle of potatoes were put on to cook while we were a church. After dinner, the meal was divided by what would be made with those foods the rest of the week. Sliced roast beef for sandwiches, ground hash from the meat, potatoes and gravy. Chucks of potatoes were saved for specific meals. I laugh when I hear people preaching about the benefits of once a month cooking because something similar was how families kept costs down while having healthy meals.

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  3. Brilliantly said Lois.. it seems this trend for blaming the oldies is one that is here also across the Pond..
    We oldies are now the reason the NHS is in dire straights as we are living longer..
    Its not because the Local authorities have cut back in closing nursing homes, or that the local cottage type hospitals that often housed the elderly or recouping from operations or strokes until they got back on their feet have been shut down.. And that All now are moved into Mega Huge Hospitals that have got so BIG that no one knows what is happening within them.
    No now its all the elderlies fault as they are taking up hospital beds which increase waiting times for everyone else..
    Was it the oldies fault who shut those cottage hospitals were shut. or that a particular government a few years ago spent and spent borrowing and borrowing and then Dug the Banks out of a hole that led to such austerity measures in the first place?

    And how about all those working years we oldies put into paying taxes, our NHS subscriptions that built these hospitals.. And lets not forget our homes those of us who worked our socks off to buy them that the government then want to take if you go into the nursing home..

    One of my elderly aunts who didn’t own her own home but had substantial wealth was paying huge amounts each week.. In three years the government took over One hundred and twenty thousand pounds.. For this she had a small room, no TV.. no new clothes, and she spent most the time alone in her room.. When the money ran out she was then moved to a cheaper local council run home as they didn’t want her as she could no longer afford to pay where she died shortly afterwards.

    Going back to your not wasting things.. we were like you Lois.. I had one pair of shoes that lasted me throughout school from age 11 to 15.. Four years.. They were miles to big for me as they were handed down from a cousin when I got them.. So cotton wool was stuffed in the black round toed shoes.. I looked like Minnie Mouse with sparrow legs and these large back shoes on the end..
    When the soul got holes in them, I was delighted thinking at last I can have a new pair.. My Dad mended them, several times.. I was the eldest of 5 siblings.. we had no luxuries in those days such as we see with young children today..

    I also had the same school summer dress for 4 yrs too.. red gingham which my mum made too big.. with adjustable press-studs down the front. and a treble hem.. which was let down each year and the studs adjusted as I busted out at the front. LOL… I would be singled out many an assembly by the head teacher of our all girls school for not wearing the correct uniform, as my uniform had a lace bought collar which my Mum had taken from something else.. And told to go to her office.. I could only tell her we had no money to buy the full price uniform and that I could not help what I was given to wear.. I would then be given letter after letter to take home.. And was then given letters to return to school..
    My two youngest sisters however always Had new… except one.. She had my school winter skirt and blouses.. she had to wear..
    Anyway.. that’s my gripe over with lol..
    I totally agree Lois with every thing you raised here within your post.. xxx
    Much love and have a great Sunday and a good week ahead xxx

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    1. I see things aren’t quite so different between our countries when it comes to the care of the elderly. My grandmother was in a nursing home for a total of two years. After the first year my grandfather had gone through more than $100,000 and that wasn’t even for a private room. He had to apply for medical assistance (for the poor) after he went through his savings and then had she lived longer than two years while on assistance to pay for her care they would have taken the home when he died.

      Our hospital situation is in dire straits as well but for a different reason. We have an agreement with Mexico that any of their citizens, who come here illegally, will be given free medical care. Many come with serious health issues knowing if they make it over the border they can get the care they need. The federal government is supposed to reimburse the hospitals, but doesn’t because it can’t afford to (in my opinion because they prefer to fight wars) so hospitals are closing down due to lack of funds.

      When I was young I went to a Catholic school where uniforms were required. I got picked on because like you I didn’t have new ones, you could tell because the material wasn’t as crisp and would get worn and need patched. I was luckier than you by the time I reached high school. I found enough jobs to be able to afford a nice if small wardrobe. I think it was those years that formed my views on clothing and have never found the need to shop and have lots of clothes. I am perfectly content with a few decent pieces that I like and know when I open the drawer the things in there will fit and I will be able to find what I want.

      Can you imagine kids today if they couldn’t have the newest, best, or what ever they wanted right when they wanted it? Everything is about instant gratification, we need to teach patience and saving again.

      Hope you feel better after your rant, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one who gets worked up. 🙂

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      1. Haha.. Yes sorry about my ‘Rant’ lol Lois.. and you would think that I would have grown up with a shoe fetish. But I still make shoes last and do not own many pairs at all..:-) Compared with Some who have wardrobes full 🙂 And I bet there were many of us back then who had the same issues with school uniforms.. xxx

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  4. That comic was either self-centered or exaggerating things for effect as they often do. However, like you being an over 50 person, I find the comment offensive You give an excellent list of practices that have not been adopted by the younger generation. I relate to all of them except one–darning socks. I never learned how to do that, but I still want to. Currently, I have a pair of socks in mending waiting for me to learn.

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    1. He was definitely exaggerating for effect but believes it to some extent. I can’t blame the youth for looking at us and asking us why we didn’t change things so they could have a pristine world to inherit. I look at the protesting both this year and last and think maybe they will realize just how hard it is for the average person, even if they join in groups, to effect change and see that it wasn’t their parents or grandparents that made the choices that led to the extent of problems we are facing now.

      I may have fought and rebelled against learning to sew my own clothes but I did learn to darn, it was required because I had to “take responsibility” for the care of my own clothes. It’s not hard to do nor do you need any special talent. We used to sit and darn while listen to music or talking about a book we were reading.

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  5. This is precisely why I mourn the ending of the era that passed with my grandmother recently – she was my absolute role model in just these things (though she did love to redecorate, i.e. paint/wallpaper, regularly for a change when the old got grubby and famously went round the house with a “spare” pot of paint attacking all sorts of things when she was 95 so she could finish it up!! She also famously complained about a year ago that my mom was sitting on the sofa “too hard” as if looked after should last forever – it’s 65 years old lol).
    I grew up in somewhat different circumstances in the 60s/70s, partly because we went to live “abroad” and felt quite privileged and modern compared to what we had left behind in the UK, but Granny adhered to the ways she’d picked up as a child in the 1920s and throughout wartime Britain until the end of her life. A good life. And just look at the habits of the under-30s/40s, as you said 😮 A lesson to us all.

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    1. Oh my, my grandfather was just like your grandmother. He was always telling everyone how to sit gently on the furniture and treat it with care. I too mourn the loss of my grandparents and the wisdom they had. I was fortunate to have grown up in their home to learn from them. So many things we take for granted and they couldn’t. Take antibiotics for instance. In a time when many children died from childhood diseases both sets of my great-grandparents lost not one child. Luckily for me they passed on the natural remedies they used and I’ve been able to pass them on to my children and grandchildren.

      I too lived differently than many of my peers because my grandparents were both retired by the time I was 15 so had more free time and did travel (by car) so I saw more than most did of our country.

      I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for Europeans during the war, here in the states we have been fortunate and take it for granted that no recent wars have been fought here where we had to worry constantly,

      The habits of our youth scare me. I am impressed by the ones who have taken up zero waste, plastic free etc lifestyles but way too many more couldn’t care less and live like there is no tomorrow to care about.

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  6. Gotta say, I LOVE this post. I’m not sure what’s up with the Millennial generation, but I do get the impression that many of them have a real sense that everyone who came before them had it so much better than they do. I’m not saying that there isn’t some reality to the challenges of the current environmental and economic situation, but I also think that this generation seems to have a somewhat unrealistic set of assumptions in regards to what should be granted to them.

    I dunno, I don’t mean to sound harsh because I think every generation struggles with the realities of adulthood, and every generation has a hard time understanding the realities that their parents faced. And I know this is the chiché, but I do find myself frequently shaking my head at the things the younger generations seem to take for granted.

    I mean, my neighborhood is full of houses that are all around 850 sq. ft. – or at least that’s how big they were when they were built back in the 1950s – most have had additional space added on. Still, the vast majority of the people who live here today are adults with no kids… well, except for the immigrants. But when these homes were built, they all housed families of 4-6 people. And that was just normal. These days if a family of 4 decides to live in anything under 2000 sq. ft. they want a special prize for being “minimalists!”

    Anyhow, I don’t mean to minimize the struggles before us politically, economically and environmentally, but I do worry about this generation. How will they be able to rise to the occasion, when they seem to have a breakdown if their phone battery dies, or they can’t eat out 5 nights a week, or can’t take several international vacations per year.

    I feel somewhat conflicted about leveling this criticism because I do believe that children should be cherished and made to feel special at every turn, but I just can’t help but wonder if the whole helicopter parenting style and emphasis on participation vs achievement has left this generation woefully unprepared to deal with the harsh realities confronting them as adults.

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    1. I share your concerns about this younger generation. I too believed that children should be cherished and respected but that didn’t mean I gave them the world on a platter. My boys were denied many things because I felt they were too extravagant, went against the values I wanted them to have or other reason. Instead of chauffeuring them around 24/7, they knew family came first.

      I’ve had the opportunity to see children fail as adults because they weren’t prepared for responsibility. They spend their last dime on upgrading a phone or purchasing expensive vehicles they can’t afford because they feel entitled to having everything then move home with mom and dad to have free rent and continue to spend. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all Millennials but I see it happen more often with those who were given everything as children.

      These are the ones who are going to run things soon and I’m worried because they don’t know any other way.

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    1. Even in our worst waterways we never had anything like what China has now. What we need is a way to upgrade our existing computers and phones instead of replacing them every time the technology improves. The thing is there isn’t much improvement from say one phone to its next model, it’s mostly little tweaks to get a new sale. The end result is a lot of e-waste that isn’t necessary.

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      1. I can understand the concept of centralising manufacturing in China India and Brazil. But shopping for the sake of shopping I’ll never understand. Or why we must eat food out of season imported from another hemisphere. What happened to the joy of waiting for summer fruits or spring vegetables.

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        1. Looking at some of the younger people around me I can see why many turn to shopping. Their lives are so devoid of the social connections I had growing up. They are bored and in some way just being around people, although strangers they rarely speak to, it gives them something to do besides sit in their home in front of the TV. Basically

          I couldn’t agree more with the imported foods. I put up as much fruit as I can in the summer months but should I run out I’ll wait until fresh is available. The imported foods have so little taste and are so pricey.

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  7. No doubt about it. I was born in 1991, and My grandparents have been in the same place since their childhood, and things inside have rarely changed. Other than the tv’s and appliances. Things we now eat, drink, and do can kill us. And I only see it getting worse before better.

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    1. I see it getting worse too. It’s a shame that the media has confused individuals with big corporations in deciding it’s all past generations fault where we are today.

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