Climate Is a Class Issue
To the editor:
Sophie Ruehr’s concerns about climate change are admirable (“The Kids Aren’t All Right,” Dec. 5). Unfortunately, her argument simply echoes self-serving corporate rhetoric.
As someone born in 1950, I offer no apology to younger generations for the mess our dear planet is in. Is it really a generation issue? Are we not all in this together? Is this false intergeneration warfare, rife with trite terms like “baby boomer” and “millennials,” blinding us to the possibility that this is a class issue?
Discussions of class disparities are as taboo in the corporate media as discussing bathroom habits at a formal dinner party. That is no accident. An open, honest discussion of class might expose and undermine the ability of the corporate elites in this country to concentrate wealth at the top, while treating us as passive consumers of goods and services rather than as informed, active citizens.
It is not a generation that is to blame for climate change. It is an economic system that benefits a privileged class at the expense of the rest of us and profits from waste and pollution. Yes, I wish many older citizens joined the students on the field at the Harvard-Yale game. Please remember, however, that we, too, were active in our day, marching in the streets against the Vietnam war and institutional racism, not to mention the environmental and labor crises.
Indeed, these crises persist today, the lack of coverage by the corporate media (and sellout NPR) notwithstanding. Many of us accused of “booing from the stands” remain active today, joining our younger allies in the streets and other venues for social change.
So rather than blaming your elders, stand with us. We will learn from you as you learn from us. A healthy democracy requires citizens of all generations to work together.
Dana Franchitto, South Wellfleet
Wild Party Guests
To the editor:
Sophie Ruehr, in “The Kids Aren’t All Right,” is right.
Greta Thunberg and the Friday Climate Strikers are right.
Severn Cullis-Suzuki was right when, as a 12-year-old, she addressed global leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.
Jack Weinberg was right in 1964 when he coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
There is still a power and influence disconnect between younger and older generations when it comes to how we live in this thin blue atmosphere, and what messes we’re knowingly leaving behind.
We’re those wild party guests who drink all your booze and never clean up.
We know better — have been “woke,” actually, for decades, at least since NASA scientist James Hansen warned Congress about global warming in 1988.
“We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying,” the United Nations told us in 1987 in the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future. “They may damn us for our spendthrift ways, but they can never collect on our debt to them. We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”
What different decisions would we make about, say, continuing fossil fuel extraction if future generations, through a modern-day proxy, could vote? Slow transitions to renewable energy from fossil fuels minimize the cost and inconvenience to present-day stakeholders without accounting for the cost to future stakeholders. Resource extraction, driven by overconsumption by this generation of stakeholders, pays little or no respect to the finite reserves of nature’s capital.
We’ll be addressing this injustice with a May 2020 conference called “Time Sensitive” in Provincetown, at which we will focus on the unexplored parts of modern sustainability. Our preliminary plans are online at https://broto.eco/conference/.
Ian Edwards, Provincetown
The writer is executive director of the Cape Cod Center for Sustainability.
Out of the Stands
To the editor:
It’s fair to say that some Boomers are too comfortable or tired to engage politically on climate change, and their expressions of hollow apology must be infuriating to Sophie Ruehr. She described the climate justice protest during halftime at the Harvard-Yale football game, observing that Boomers “booed from the stands” when students occupied the field to protest university inaction on divestiture from fossil fuels.
I witnessed this civil disobedience and have a slightly contrary view. When a small group of students took the field holding signs and chanting slogans, the stadium grew silent. The teams returned to the field ready to play but the protesters sat down at midfield clearly intent on disrupting the game. Police surrounded the group and one officer ripped banners out of students’ hands. The mood grew tense and a show of police force appeared imminent.
And then something extraordinary happened. People started coming out of the stands to join the protesters, a few at first, and then a deluge, until nearly the entire field was filled with both young and old demanding change.
The public announcer implored them “out of respect for the players” to leave the field and allow the game to continue. They responded with chants of “OK Boomer.” In my section of the stadium, which was full of older alumni, reactions were mixed. Some went onto the field to join their kids. Some were bored or indifferent. Most, however, appeared inspired by what was unfolding before us.
After an hour of negotiations with police, the protesters gradually began to leave the field. Some were in handcuffs, but many were simply escorted off. As they exited, some fans from every generation booed, evidently displeased that their football experience had been disrupted. But from where I stood, there were many more folks of every generation expressing support and gratitude for the courageous statement that had been made.
Michael Fee, Truro