The environment was a hot issue long before I was born in the 80's. Mainstream consensus was seemingly reached over the importance of environmentalism more than a decade prior. Conservative Nixon minted the EPA in 1970 and the massive effort to clean up our air, land and water was bipartisan. Regulations put in place by the EPA made America's bright blue, smog-free skies reflect once again off of recently cleared rivers. Then something changed.
The five decades since the creation of the EPA have brought larger and increasingly complex global environmental issues like climate change, deforestation, ocean acidification and mass extinction. The problems we face as a nation have evolved from visibly polluted creeks and dark smoggy air to ostensibly invisible, complicated issues requiring sophisticated, collaborative solutions.
Like nearly all of my friends and peers, I’m frustrated. We know the debate over climate change has long-since been resolved. Yet we find ourselves battling constant misinformation and rampant denialism in huge swaths of our population. There is still much work for us science-accepters to do to educate and advocate for environmental consciousness across varying demographics. But one particularly infuriating group remains an inordinately dangerous threat to our future health and safety: male baby boomers.
Why have they checked out of the conversation about the environment? What happened in the last fifty years that almost half of baby boomers have regressed to denying that humans are destroying our earth?
45% of boomer men won’t acknowledge that climate change is caused by humans. This denial comes from lack of accurate information, abject disinterest, or a financial incentive to bury their heads in the sand. Sure, more of them are coming to terms with reality with each passing year. And 45% is less than half. But these deniers' corresponding short-sighted loyalty to fellow science-denying elected officials is directly revoking my generations’ children - boomers’ own grandchildren - the right to a healthy future.
No one group denies climate change as vigorously as boomer men. Boomer women are less likely than their male counterparts to deny that climate change is caused by humans. Younger conservatives, for their part, don’t oppose science the same way the older generations do. And according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “'The unique views of conservative white males contribute significantly to the high level of climate change denial in the United States.' And climate change denialism is largely—but not exclusively—a US phenomenon."
Boomers remain the demographic the most susceptible to deliberately inaccurate information produced by fossil-fuel funded propaganda outlets and their paid-off pundits and politicians. The most misled segment of our population now has the political power to propel us towards a dire, very near future of climate catastrophes - exponentially increasing in both scale and regularity.
Those of us who are able to identify the blatant lies put forth by the fossil-fueled propaganda machine have an obligation to the deniers - both boomers and non-boomers alike - to infiltrate their echo chambers of denial with the truth. The environmental point of no return looms right around the proverbial corner whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. How did we get here?
A loosening of campaign donation regulations over the last few decades created a new type of elected official dependent on dark money donations from the fossil-fuel machine. These paid-for politicians began advocating against climate solutions.
Couple that with a healthy dose of media misinformation (I’m looking at you, Fox News) and an "out of site, out of mind" attitude, it’s not hard to understand why the predominately right-wing American boomers stopped caring about the earth.
But baby boomers' “past perfect” attitude served as a catalyst in creating environmentally-obsessed millennials, Gen X, Gen Y and TBD. We watched, and still watch, in horror as boomers romanticize how "great" things once were while disregarding modern climate science. Their chosen politicians use fear of “over regulation” and a "socialist takeover" to justify their utter refusal to take action for a better future.
”Future perfect" younger generations know that reverting back to "simpler times" is not a viable option. Nor is forging forward on our current path. 91% of millennials agree with the global scientific community - climate change is real; it’s happening; it's serious. We care.
We spent our formative years observing the very real, very catastrophic consequences of the previous generations' profit-over-planet perspective. Devastating information about our earth has literally been at our fingertips, on our phones and in our hands for our entire adult lives.
Like every generations before us, we want to give future generations the same opportunities we were gifted with. We want our children and grandchildren to have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy food to eat. But unlike past generations, none of our dreams for the future are achievable without drastically advancing our collective societal perspectives on climate science and reigning in our consumptive ways. Now.
Rapacious boomer-built industrial and agricultural systems have massacred over half of earth’s wildlife in the last 40 years alone. Scientists forecast that two-thirds of the animals we have had the privilege of sharing this earth with will be gone within the next five years. Oceans will be fishless by 2048 and bees will be officially endangered.
Humans are currently experiencing our first-ever mass extinction called the Holocene extinction, or the Sixth extinction. The earth’s last mass extinction event, 65 million years ago, eradicated the dinosaurs. The Holocene extinction - happening now - is caused by human activity. We are killing off our wildlife at 1,000 to 10,000 times the expected biological rate. We have twenty years, at most, to change our ways if we want to prevent complete ecosystem collapse.
The fallout from our parents’ decisions - deforestation, rising sea levels, drought, extreme weather, and war - have dominated the news narrative for as long as we can recall. 100 million people are expected to die by 2030 due to climate change. Real human lives are already being lost.
I personally struggle to recall a time when on our nation wasn’t at war. If we move forward along the path laid out by our boomer predecessors, there will be continued wars over water in the near future as global temperatures rise. Drought contributed to the Syrian war and the fight over water is currently creating deadly conflict in Yemen and Libya. Continuing onward towards additional destabilizing worldwide catastrophes by stubbornly refusing to act on climate feels unfathomable.
It isn't an option to keep pillaging the rainforests and dumping carbon into the air. America is the world's second largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Yet American Republicans are the only party in the developed world which denies the evidence that humans are causing climate change. Every other advanced nation understands the severity of the issues we face. They trust the scientific recommendations to change our ways as quickly as possible.
How can we not feel personally responsible for the role our nation plays - for the role we all play - in this unfolding global disaster? It's maddening and sickening to know that we can stop this - or at the very least slow it down - but the right-wing boomer majority isn't sold on the urgency with which we need to act.
Millennials agree that we absolutely have to leave the fossil fuels in the ground. It's not up for debate. 80% of us want to move to clean energy by 2030. We trust the scientific community when they repeatedly tell us that if we don't curb emissions now, there will be no return.
But as long as lobbyists for oil, gas, agriculture, and fast food can buy political favors, our paid-off politicians will continue to refuse to act on climate change. If we allow their obstructionism, more unnecessary death, devastation, and extinction is inevitable.
We must join together to fight and fight hard to get money out of politics if we want to bring climate change and the mass extinction of our wildlife to a screeching halt. Removing the financial noose that noxious, polluting industries have on our policy makers is the only shot we have at getting our elected officials to act in the interest of human and planetary survival.
Still, it's not enough to act jointly through political means. We must also take responsibility for the individual role we each play. Sustainability and preservation are not some abstract problem for "others" to deal with. They are your problems. They are my problems. Preventing humanity from destroying itself is our problem.
Younger generations don't have the luxury of recalling a time when our lifestyle choices - diet, transportation, shopping habits - weren’t charted and dissected for their ecological impact. We were born into a global economy and we learned at a young age that collectively, our individual choices have a discernible global reverberation. We understand how important it is to consider sustainability in our daily lives. We care where things came from, how they were made, and what affect their production had on the workers and on the earth. How can we get older, more detached members of our society on board with conscious thinking?
It’s not just our responsibility to make conscious choices, we must educate boomers and any other science-deniers on the issues that don't get covered in the fossil-fuel financed corporate media. Advocacy is not optional at this precarious point in human history. It’s mandatory.
It’s up to each and every one of us to protest climate inaction from our family, friends, neighbors, politicians and peers. It’s up to us to fight for a better world. Armed with the tools to dismantle their misinformation, we have the power to show up and repeatedly prove how much we care. The more we show up, the more likely it is that our demands for a safe future will be met.
Sharing and discussing media about climate science within our communities is a good first step. For people oblivious to or uninterested in their personal impact on the environment, bearing witness to real video documentation of the devastation our earth has endured in the last few decades can be extremely impactful.
Years of Living Dangerously is wonderfully informative docu-series that covers a variety of environmental and wildlife issues. There is much to learn from this well-produced series, even for those already well-versed in our currently climate reality. I highly recommend sharing the series with your circle of friends and family, no matter where they stand politically.
Before the Flood is another action-inspiring documentary exploring the climate catastrophes happening worldwide. Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth is a classic and the sequel promises to show how severely we underestimated our situation and how urgently we must act.
Merchants of Doubt is an absolute must for the climate deniers out there, or those dealing with climate deniers! It details the magician-like bait and switch tactics the fossil fuel companies are using to disorient the masses while handsomely paying our right-wing politicians to carry out the ruse.
As for showing up, Eric and I are personally taking action by volunteering with the Citizens Climate Lobby. The organization is doing phenomenal work creating a bi-partisan climate committee in Congress as well as educating and empowering regular folks to take action. If you're interested in getting involved, check out their site to join a weekly call about the tools they use to create political will for climate solutions.
For those interested in joining the fight to get money out of politics, Wolf Pac is doing work to reverse Citizen's United and restore the democratic rule of people, not corporations. And although they are in debate with Wolf Pac about the best method, Common Cause is also committed to getting money out of politics.
If working towards protecting wildlife is important to you, check out the National Resource Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Whatever you are passionate about - whether it's your family's safety, animals, the oceans or the earth itself - now is the time to take action against climate change. A unified front of advocacy and unrelenting attempts to educate the deniers that exist among us are our best shot at stopping the destruction before it's too late.
Special thank you to Eric for editing and advising this post. He was instrumental in guiding a long and passionate stream of consciousness rant into a piece that I hope you found educational and inspirational.
I've linked some must-watch climate media below. The dress in this post was made in America by Leith and the jewelry was ethically handcrafted for me by Annachich Jewelry.
You can read more about the environmental devastation caused by our modern agriculture and processed food systems in my post What is ethical eating and why does it matter? For more about the environmental impact of our modern fashion industry, check out Why I'm obsessed with knowing who made my clothes.
Have any of you had any positive experiences moving people to take interest in something they didn’t previously care about? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!