This is a ‘Millennial’ speaking. Please bear with me. Yes, I know you love to hate this inconvenient demographic you helped to raise, these young up-starts with their start-ups and pop-ups who are so entitled and self-righteous. I also know you love to data mine us as a means of stuffing your pockets, as we have probably been the most researched money-generating market since, well, you, so there’s still something about us you’re relentlessly curious about.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to blame an entire generation of people of anything, least not those who gave most of us the miracle of life and abundance; “we didn’t start the fire,” as one Baby Boomer sang, and I agree. Ultimately it’s the blamelessness of being human. No one really understands the impact of their actions on Earth, and especially not when those actions unfold at a rate as complex as unprecedented as they have had in the last century; we are only enacting upon the conditions we inherit.
So for generational name-calling, I am only following your example. We millennials have heard a lot about how we’ve “killed” this industry or that industry, this trend or that trend. Okay, sure. Allow me to suggest, change-denying Baby Boomers, that you, meanwhile, have killed our precious planet.
When I say Baby Boomers, I’m talking about that coveted demographic born during the post–World War II baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1964, currently aged in their fifties, sixties, seventies. Let’s take an exemplary Baby Boomer who denies climate change: Sir Donald Trump. He seems delusional, but can you blame him? In the years of his birth, America being great really was an unquestionable reality, and the environment wasn’t really an issue. We had saved the world from the truly evil actions of the Nazis, Stalin, and the Japanese Empire, and ushered in an era never before seen on this planet where people could be free in ways they never had been.
It’s a wonderful story, one that continued to win Best Picture Oscars for decades to come. It’s the story we keep telling ourselves, to continue fighting, to “win” at all costs — just watch footage of Fox News celebrate Trump bombing Afghanistan with “the mother of all bombs” recently with Geraldo Rivera. “One of my favorite things in the 16 years I’ve been here at Fox News is watching bombs drop on bad guys,” Rivera, an esteemed and highly paid reporter and also an idiot, said.
In the minds of you, we are always the victors, always have been, always will be. This is not to discredit the ingenuity, hard work, and individuality with which the Baby Boomers created technologies, medicines, and art forms that have made for one of the most miraculous and wonderful eras of humanity ever. But over time, it is also proving to be one of the worst in its long-term effects. In holding onto the Baby Boomer narrative, in its models of worth, we lose sight of what has changed in the world since we “won” it.
And what are we winning? Mostly money, of course. Forget your Bible that you thump, with its cautions against greed, and your 1960s drug-dabbling in the immaterial. We have always had the most robust economy in the world anywhere, you say, and of course: because we invented it. We invented the McDonalds, the Disneylands, the Pepsi that created that horrific advertisement with some celebrity.
What is the consequence of this rat race value system? It is mainly the cost of our shared lifestyle that we refuse to see. An entire ocean filled with plastic, plastic that will last for about 450 years made for toddler toys entertaining for about three years, plastic that some estimate will outnumber fish by 2050. A planet that the World Wildlife Fund estimates loses between 10,000 and 100,000 species each year, with dying reefs and forests that were healthy up till now. A planet that is paved over and circled by satellites and roaring airplanes absent from our skies only a century ago and all the thousands of years before that. And now Trump wants to open more regions for oil, in National Monuments and National Parks. Typical of us, we then blame China and India for daring to be as industrial as we ever were, because we won, they didn’t, even though they manufacture many of our goods.
If I were you, I would renounce the policies, industries, and beliefs that have led to our warming, melting planet, and invest your money in reforestation and re-wilding programs; in solar and wind energy and energy sources as yet unimagined; in programs and think tanks and politicians who understand that fossil fuels are a finite resource. And I would listen to your children and grand-children, and consider that one day, the world will have fewer animals than the picture books you raised them on.
Climate-denying Baby Boomers, your children are suffering. They are stressed and shouldered with debt to participate in a sedentary desk economy you helped create. I have lost one friend to suicide due to depression brought on in large part to the fact she could not afford her own medical bills; another because the pressure to succeed in school was too great. I have seen people closest to me in my life suffer mental breakdowns because they are being asked to compete for endless rows of toothpaste brands and unaffordable houses, and because despite having all the supposed guarantees to happiness — a college degree, material wealth, privilege — they are profoundly unhappy.
But go ahead, play your golf. We cannot ask of you to fix these wounds because you were only being human in doing what you thought was right, or what was expected of you, or how you were raised. You created some of the greatest entertainments, improvements, and achievements our species has ever known. And I want to forgive you — no one can be blamed for the rose colored glasses they’re born wearing, the tint of which changes to the tune of a status quo out of any one person’s control. Most other Baby Boomers are ashamed and saddened at the result of your actions, as all they ever wanted was to give us love and provide us happiness in the way they could. We’re all just trying our best on this little Earth.
And you all have done a great job at being the best at being business people, bankruptcies aside. However, we see values beyond the market system that you have so much faith in. To millennials and all other younger generations, you have brains and hands. Let us work to heal the planet and create a more compassionate world than this one we are inheriting. And to climate-denying Baby Boomers, I hope if the solutions elude us, that you see the consequences of your actions before you leave this profoundly polluted Earth. Donald Trump, I hope you see Mar-A-Lago swallowed by the rising sea.