OK, Fine. It’s All My Fault.

Photo by USGS on Unsplash

Today, approaching the autumnal equinox in western Washington, I sit in my studio, my lambskin comforter close at hand to fend off an unseasonable chill. I cannot linger outdoors because of the intense cover of smoke from the rampant conflagrations consuming California, Oregon, and parts of Washington. I seldom leave the house for another reason — that pesky global pandemic that seems to target older people.

I am 73 years old, my fingers are straight, I have a handful of gray hairs at the temples, I drive at night, I sometimes wear reading glasses (but don’t really need them), and I walk with a sassy wiggle in my hips. I maintain a vise grip on my belief that 73 is the new 53. I have a vegetable garden that feeds my partner, myself, and our chickens for the year. I still double-space after a period. Other than that, I’m hip, cool, and woke, liberal, and technically savvy.

I was told by a Millennial recently that I am to blame for everything that is wrong in today’s world and that I should die already.

Really? Me? Well, it’s quite a disappointment to think that nearly 60 years of my life have been utterly wasted, in her view. Here are a few examples of my so-called “irresponsible life”:

  • My protests during college years against the Viet Nam conflict were in vain.
  • My marches on state capitols in favor of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment were a waste of time.
  • I actively supported the American civil rights movement and the Poor People’s March of 1968. I wasn’t responsible for ending the era of Jim Crow, but I didn’t cause it either. I continue to support BLM.
  • Joined the National Women’s Party, then the League of Women Voters, worked campaigns for local, state, and national candidates.
  • Representing the NW Florida Water Management District, worked with then Gov. Bob Graham (R) to develop a state-wide growth management plan (which has been gathering dust, unread, for 35 years or so).
  • I devoted a year of my life to giving lectures on how there’s still time to turn back Climate Change. Did anyone listen? Did anyone take action?
  • I’ve begged people to open their minds to a different economy, that of “no growth.” Uncontrolled capitalism is not sustainable, but the economy seems to be more important to our lawmakers than the well-being of humans (or any other creature, for that matter).
  • I’ve contributed endless donations and volunteer hours to organizations that fight for legislation to combat climate change, and have supported every candidate who “believes” climate change is caused by humans and their unquenchable thirst for fossil fuels and the plastics derived therefrom.
  • I’ve written countless truth-to-power letters to legislators about climate change, fossil fuels, plastics, water resources, wetland protection, clear-cutting, population growth, and alternative economic models (i.e., no-growth).
  • Some of my citizen-scientist friends of a certain age also volunteer with me to survey our local beaches for marine debris (i.e., plastic) that either washes up from around the world or is left on the beach. Just sayin’, the odds are that someone younger than I is trashing the place.
  • Currently I’m an editor at Salish Magazine, where the goal is to help people see, understand and respect the connections among all things in this delicate equilibrium state that we call “Life.”

Many of my friends “of a certain age” could write a similar list.

While younger generations might have a point about their ancestors leaving them a big hot mess to clean up (no pun intended), they should be asking themselves, in their venerable wokeness, what can they do, now that we’re getting older, retiring, dying, or simply retreating from the dystopia, hiding in our studios trying to survive whatever is coming next.

It’s time to stop attacking elders, those of us who have made huge efforts to compel a course change. Yes, we failed, but we did try. If you want to blame someone, take a look at all those non-voters who didn’t “like” either candidate, or who didn’t want to stand in line in the rain, or who didn’t pay attention to what’s going on in the legislatures and courts in their states and nationally. And let’s take a hard look at everyone of any age who considers themselves to have “rights,” regardless of the effects on others or on the planet.

Speaking of rights, why do only human beings have “rights”? In New Zealand, for example, rivers have the same legal rights as humans! Instead, in our country, we give rights to giant corporations that have zero interest in protecting anything other than their shareholders’ financial interests.

Have we become a nation of entitled assholes who feel obligated to blame everyone but themselves for our first-world problems? I say we’re damned lucky to have first-world problems, especially if you think about the Rohingya people running for their lives, or the Bangladeshi, whose country is underwater much of the time yet still accepting immigrants, or our south-of-the-border neighbors who seek asylum here but have their children ripped from their arms and tossed into detention centers. I’d prefer to call them concentration camps, which is more accurate.

So instead of all this anger, resentment, and blame-throwing, I propose the following: Let’s start conversations with the generations coming along behind us. Let’s tell them all the things we’ve accomplished or tried and failed to get done. Let’s talk about all the lessons we have learned along the way, sharing these as a potential launch-pad for a new approach for the younger set to take on. We oldsters have learned much, and we have much to share. We still have ideas and we still want to help. Let’s get together, build a new framework for action, and work side by side, for as long as we have left, to put things right.

Mother Earth needs every single one of us focused on understanding how our own actions affect the planet and our politics so that together we can, like a massive flock of starlings, change course. There’s a major fork in the road dead ahead, and together we need to take a decisive left turn. Join us in voting for and working toward an end to chaos, brinksmanship, willful ignorance, and inaction.

A long time denizen of the Pacific Northwest, scientist, educator, artist, farmer, chicken wrangler, editor & writer at SalishMagazine.org.

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