Sunday, August 11, 2019

We Must Not Take Away Hope From Young People

We adults have been listening to the dire warnings of how things are spiraling out of control for many years.  We react to it with horror, or with tired cynicism, or scorn, or anger, according to our personalities, and of course, according to how much background we have.  The discussions often get heated; sometimes because our friends argue with us out of frustration.

But other ears are also listening, and taking note: little ears, and not-so-little ears, which do not have the experience (the ‘wisdom’), to put the talk of these end-times in perspective.  Well, let me take a step back; none of us have successfully negotiated the End Of The World before.  But many of us--not all, I must confess; and we should have some compassion towards our friends who are not mentally well-equipped to cope with disaster without going all Jonestown on us--many of us are able to brace ourselves, and address the problem as logically as possible.

From the Adult point of view, we really don’t know whether, when things start going kaplooey, whether it will happen (A) relatively suddenly, or (B) gradually.  We also don’t know whether things will become impossible everywhere at once, or whether it will start in some places, and spread to other places.

I personally believe that, when talking about climate change / global warming, or CC/GW, especially to children, we should take the view that it is going to be gradual.  Things are gradually going to get worse, and we need to push back so that things either get better, or get worse more slowly.  We’re not doing this only for ourselves; we’re also doing this because poor people will suffer relatively more than rich people (which is why this Green New Deal is something we middle-class and working class people want so desperately, and most upper-class and 1% folks do not want at all).

There’s other interesting attitudes that are sort of amusing.
  • A very elderly person without any family left, and with some financial resources, is probably not going to be too upset.  He is going to die in less than a decade, probably; has the money to deal with the added needs of these last years, and has no responsibilities.
  • The patriarch of an affluent family: well, he has to survive a decade or two, but can pass along a lot of his personal fortune to his aging rug-rats, and once he goes, it becomes their problem.  We know some people in this category, don’t we?
  • What about a middle-class matriarch with an enormous family, which family has come to depend on her leadership for many years?  What can she do to adjust the attitudes of her more capable family members, so that they do not throw in the towel too quickly?  What can she do to combat the extreme and paranoid attitudes of the dumber drones among her menfolk?  (Obviously I’m drawing upon some broad stereotypes here, but we’re running out of time . . .)

If things take the best possible course, we have to make some mental adjustments, and get accustomed to sane ways of doing things, ways that have already been adopted in many countries, and which we have been in the habit of ridiculing for decades.

  1. We must stop burning things.
    Let me explain.  Smoke screws up the air, so that’s one reason.  Burning converts fuel to carbon dioxide, which--at the moment--is causing problems with keeping the planet temperature in balance.  (Too much CO2 prevents the planet cooling fast enough.)  Also, grilling and barbecuing heats up the air; and though we don’t want to get our kids panicked to the point where they start yelling at anyone who has an open fire going, it might not be a bad thing to get them thinking that discouraging open fires--or any sort of fires, for that matter--is something that we’re going to have to do sooner or later.
  2. We must stop using plastic.
    There were about 10 years when it appeared as though we had the plastic pollution problem licked.  But we should have known better; we only kicked the problem down the road.  Our politicians are afraid of taking action on anything that does not benefit some business or other, and the plastic recycling business does not promise easy enough profits.
    The US does a better job with plastic than they do in the Third World, but that does not say much.  Plastics end up near the homes of the poorest in the land, who are at most at risk with rising ocean levels, and continual flooding.
  3. We must stop putting crap in the water, or pouring it down the sink.
    I remember a time when I did not think twice about scrubbing filthy car parts, and pouring it down the sink.  I don’t do it now because I don’t do my own repairs.  But dirty water becomes the problem of the Water Authority, and in many parts of the country, the budgets of these departments get cut every year.  Pretty soon, just as a lot of our supposedly recycled plastic is shunted to the landfill (and not recycled at all), a lot of our water that should be filtered is simply sent into the closest big river.  Only fishermen get upset.  But the really, really rich do not go fishing, it appears.
  4. We must support clean electricity.
    As we start using cleaner-running cars, the power for those cars will increasingly come from the Power Stations.  This is great, because we can focus our attention into making these power stations efficient and non-polluting, which makes the clean-running autos really mean something.
  5. In the near future, we should get away from personal transportation.
    The faster we do that, the further we postpone the time when life becomes really difficult.  Buses and trains are already available for those of us who live near the big cities to go most places conveniently.  Planes, at this point, are not really efficient, as far as I know.
    There are also those who work in big companies, whose productivity is measured by how much they travel.  It is very difficult to change the culture of big companies, but this culture of gratuitous travel has to be tailed off.

Then, there are more difficult things we can do, such as: eat less meat, pay more attention to difficult school subjects, spend less money on defense, elect smarter leaders, and so on.  But our young family members must be persuaded that:

Even if we cannot make the deadlines that the Global-Warming-scientists say we must make to prevent the sea temperature from becoming too high (and that is a serious critical point), we can still make the Post-Apocalyptic World a slightly more comfortable place to live in by getting started.

All the things that need to be done are common-sense things that reasonable people have thought of doing for centuries.  For many years, Businesses have encouraged us to Buy More!  Spend More!  Eat More!  Travel More!  Fly More!  Because it’s Good for Business.  But it seems to me that what is good for business is bad for the environment.  I suppose business leaders will leap to their feet to contradict that claim.  But I don't see any reason to think that there are any environment-friendly businesses to make much of a difference.

It is important to convince the younger members in your circles that there are things they can do, even while the adults are out there screwing everybody over.  And we can expect bad weather all through the year, most years, but as long as we continue to push back against the Burn / Drive / Pollute  aspects of our culture, it is possible to keep our mental equilibrium.


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