These days, we are sitting here helpless as the planet begins resisting excesses we should have factored in all along as we built up our economy to such a large extent without factoring in “sustainability” to the degree that was necessary.
I grew up in the Sixties. I turned 10 in 19068; the same year I remember watching the aftermath of the King and Kennedy assassinations, which included riots and people marching in the streets and all the things that supposedly made us Baby Boomers so “enlightened” back in the day.
One thing we Boomers apparently never learned was how to sustain our politics – or much of anything else, for that matter – beyond just getting an initial reaction from the public. White progressives from that era are quick to take credit for “ending the Vietnam War,” but there are a lot of questions regarding even that.
First off, we helped elect Richard Nixon president, ostensibly to end the War, so what took so long? If we were so effective, why did Nixon take five years and side bombing trips to Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand before finally deciding to end the war with the current status quo largely intact? Then, of course, there is the question of, what else did we do?
Seriously, what else did we do? We got people to notice the environment for the first time, theoretically, but our only accomplishment seems to have been to create Earth Day every April. In the late Seventies, Jimmy Carter’s Department of Energy launched the beginnings of a campaign that was designed to wean the country off oil and it may have cut our fossil fuel use in half by the late 1980s, but it was one of the first things St. Reagan canceled when Boomer “Progressives” handed the election to him in 1980 and 1984. Again, we never seem to have learned of the concept of sustainability in anything; not in politics, and certainly not when it came to the environment.
Whenever I hear Greta Thunberg rail at those of my generation for doing practically nothing about Climate Change, I seriously wish I could argue with her and tell her she’s wrong. However, facts are facts, and the fact is, we largely ignored the concept of sustainability, even as we Boomers advocated for other things. Really, even when you listen to Bernie Sanders rail about progressive politics, there is a singular focus on economics, without a heaping helping of sustainability mixed in.
And let’s be real; without sustainability as a major factor in any economic activity, we are not being responsible stewards off the planet or its riches. The climate of the planet has been described as a “Cinderella Planet,” which means it is more habitable to carbon-based life than any other planet we have observed, which means the odds of us finding someplace else to live if we spoil this one are impossible. For one thing, we have no way to move between planets, in part because that, too, was something we gave up on, once we figured out how to get two people onto the nearest moon and back.
It may be too late to reverse the effects of climate change, but we have to try. However, instead of taking the either/or approach to both climate and the economy, we must incorporate sustainability into every economic decision we make worldwide. Again, it’s not enough to know whether or not we can do something, we have to fully incorporate the question of whether we should do it and fully evaluate whether or not the planet can take the strain and whether an action is fully sustainable.
Listen to the brilliant Great Thunberg and then look inward and ask yourself why we, as Baby Boomers, failed to do enough to care for the most important resource we have, which is this “Cinderella Planet.”