Young and old are in it together

We know a human generation to be the period of time that most people take to produce offspring, but this can vary depending on the situation. Generations tend to be longer in boom times with high numbers of women in jobs than during an economic depression, for instance.

In poorer countries, where people have a lower life expectancy and less access to birth control, the age gap between parents and their children can be 15 years, or less. In developed countries a generation averages about 25 years.

I said I should really have said or because it the age of mothers, those in our population who do the child bearing, that really defines the length of a generation. Fathers are sometimes a generation older than their partners.

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But fathers and mothers alike tend to get very heated in defence of their younger days, in the kind of inter guess factory generational disputes we see from time to time in the letters columns of the Mercury.

A few weeks ago a Kingston reader blamed baby boomers for pretty well everything bad in today world, attacking how they took holidays while younger people struggled with mess the boomers have left behind got an instant, heated response. the greed of more recent generations that have to have everything straight away and pay for it later (or never) that is part of the problem, said one. was no buying on credit cards; we saved money to buy the necessities. suggested the younger generation should up gym membership and walk could cut out the lattes, make your own lunch or dine out on special occasions only. Try public transport. If you enjoy a night out, socialise at home. Ah, the generation gap.

Things get a whole lot more complex when we look at generation as a cultural phenomenon, in terms of human behaviour and interaction, because we all in it up to our necks. Generation matters: it forms a huge part of who we are.

Which brings me to the musings of a Bellerive correspondent earlier this year. He recounted a discussion about shopping bags at a supermarket checkout, in which an older customer was berated by a young cashier for not caring enough save our environment for future generations followed a long catalogue of reasons why the older generation was no less than later ones, which bears repeating at length. Groceries were put in cartons or paper bags which were then re used. People used stairs because there weren lifts, and walked or used buses for work or shopping.

The list went on: washing and re using cloth nappies, drying clothes on a line instead of a dryer, blending food by hand instead of using electric mixers, packing breakables in newspapers instead of styrofoam or bubble wrap, mowing grass by hand.

exercised by working so we didn need to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. We drank from a tap or fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen.

took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning mum into a 24 hour taxi service in the family $50,000 people carrier. We didn need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space to find the nearest pub. endeth the lesson, was the wry conclusion.

Brian Marshall can be forgiven for being a bit tetchy. He was reacting to what he saw as an attack on his generation, and his defence is a good one with much to teach us all, young and old.

As a baby boomer myself I related to what he said. It was a nice reminder of how over this past half century we come to rely increasingly on powered machines and other technology while making a habit of discarding ever growing amounts of superfluous stuff.

We entitled to a grouch now and again, but intergenerational warfare is a futile business. Our parents or our children aren better or worse than us simply because of that fact. There are no heroes or villains here, just people doing what they feel is necessary to get along.

The supermarket cashier wasn entirely wrong. The era of the baby boomers kickstarted the steady climb in fossil fuel use culminating in today astronomical levels. We were the first generation to take unlimited energy use for granted, and to discard what we didn want.

By example and guess factory experience, we prepared our children well for increasingly extravagant times. The oil squeeze in the 1970s, the stockmarket collapse of 1987 and the 2008 financial crisis were just hiccups in our march to prosperity.

Of course, that defining prosperity in the very narrow sense of material gain, taking no account of waste or unsustainable use of resources. Now, our children are getting the sense that underneath it all, things are not all that good. Because they human, they blame their parents.

But pointing a finger is actually pointless. We boomers could argue that our own parents should have been more wary of unfettered economic growth, but who could blame them for wan guess factory ting to be unrestrained after their experience of the Great Depression and a world war or two?

The crisis that is confronting us is not the fault of one generation ahead of any other, but the responsibility of acting on it belongs to us all. We all in this together, young and old. Here endeth the lesson.

Peter Boyer is a journalist with a special interest in climate and energy.

John de Brere of Sandy Bay Posted at 9:17 AM April 20, 2014

Mr Grubb, I get my climate science facts from climate scientists, not from former TV presenters funded by the fossil fuel industry. WUWT tends to present a one sided view on climate ‘science’, based on cherry picked stats and reductio ad absurdum arguments. Ugo Bardi, one of those editors, explains his reasoning at the cassandra legacy, under the title “climate of intimidation Frontiers”. Back to the purpose of the article I think that relying on one website (WUWT) that is politically motivated and funded by companies with a major interest in climate denialism to be problematic. If you’re encouraging people to do their own digging, then perhaps you’d encourage them to look at objective, scientific sources rather than guess factory overtly biased lobbying sites. To do any less fails the duty of care our generation has for future generations, and weakens the arguments you’re trying to promote.

Andrew Grubb of Hobart Posted at 6:58 PM April 19, 2014

So John you didn’t go onto the WUWT and read the article. Why am I not surprised. Classic alarmist completely unable to deal with fact. I actually read the editors letter as to why the paper was retracted. But if you seriously believe that’s”study” done by Lewandowsky yo be legit, then please don’t bother commenting to me on anything you have successfully proved blind in one and can’t see out of the other. Anyway you be happy in your little world of ignorance

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