Boomers and the Environment

There’s nothing left to debate about climate change.  It’s real, it’s happening now and the effects will be somewhere between bad and catastrophic.

Thanks to groups like TransitionKW, more and more people are aware of the challenge facing us and are getting involved.  We know that fossil fuel companies and the politicians they own aren’t going to do anything unless we force them to change.  That’s going to take  committed effort by all regular folks and, so far, that’s not happening.

If you look at the environmental movement, you’ll notice that one group is conspicuously absent.  Most of the people at meetings, rallies, protests, etc are between the age of 20 and 45.  You’ll see kids, some of them too young to walk, but you won’t see many, if any, Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964).

If anyone should be involved in combating climate change and working to develop sustainability, it’s people like me. There’s a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that we are primarily responsible for the problem. If you think that’s an exaggeration, let’s look at the Canadian Boomer.

The  majority of Canadians (especially those born here) between ages 49 to 67 have had it  pretty good.  Unlike most of our parents, we’ve never lived through a depression and most of us have never been to war. We’ve had more than just enough food, clothing and shelter.  We’ve had free education, affordable access to university, good job opportunities and a healthy planet. Our lives weren’t all perfect, but we were dealt a relatively strong hand.  Good for us you say, but what did we do with it?

We went for more, bigger, newer stuff.  We traded walking to school for buying cars for our high school kids.  We shopped at big chain stores (now Big Box) and watched our neighbourhood shops die.  We demanded food out of season, take-out and fast-food delivery. We bought bigger and bigger houses, farther and farther away from our jobs.  We lost our sense of community and our connection to nature and the environment.  In the process, we taught our kids the wrong lesson.  We taught them that money was the measure of success and to disregard the true cost of consuming the world’s resources.

It’s no wonder than that the environment has gotten progressively worse.  Most of us Boomers probably won’t be around when it gets too unbearable to ignore.  But that doesn’t mean we can say “hey, not my problem”.  We are largely responsible for “breaking” it which means we’ve “bought” it and have to take the responsibility of ownership.

I hope non-Boomers won’t start yelling at us on the street.  Far better to encourage us to get involved.  In a future post, we’ll look at ways to talk about climate change and sustainability with your Boomer relatives and friends. We have a lot to bring to the table.

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