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A history lesson for todays young environmentalists

So often when I’m reading various articles about global warming or as it’s now called — ‘climate change’ — I see comments made by people from young-er generations stating that the baby boom generation doesn’t give a damn about the planet.  We’ve destroyed it with our insatiable greed leaving nothing for them but ashes.

I’ve decided to write a response to those who believe that they are the first generation to care about this planet Earth.

The 60’s was a decade remembered for its turmoil, upheaval and change.  Unlike the 50’s with it’s iconic stay-at-home Moms making wonderful home cooked meals while the Dads were off working hard to care for their families, the 60’s brings back memories of psychedelic colours, flower children, hippies, long hair, VW buses and Woodstock. Wars, political assassinations, threats of nuclear holocausts and a general feeling of instability that something radical was happening to the world were a daily part of our lives.

The 60’s also brought in the era of protests and demonstrations:  civil rights, sit-ins, campus riots, civil disobedience, women’s liberation, and yes, environmental protests.  Our music expressed our objections to the Vietnam war.  Disestablishmentarianism was the word of the day.  Ask any baby boomer about May 4, 1970 and they’ll tell you all about it.

It was the generation that grew up in the 50’s and 60’s who first openly and publicly went to bat for the environment.  While groups like the Sierra Club have been around for a long time, public protests to protect the planet first gained a real foothold during the 60’s.   Environmental and wildlife groups existed long before we came along, but it was our generation that really brought those issues to the forefront and got people to start paying attention.

We fought to save the whales, bald-eagles and condors, bringing them back from the brink of extinction.  We challenged and fought big business to stop polluting our air and our water.  It was because of us that pollution control devices were installed in factories, coal plants and smoke stacks.  It was because of us bringing awareness to the toxic waste being dumped in the Great Lakes that those waters were cleaned up and regulations put in place to prohibit polluting.

It’s because of our generation campaigning for cleaner air that vehicles are now low emission and fuel efficient.   We’re the reason you get more miles to the gallon / litre.

We did the protesting, the letter writing, the sit-ins and the rallies.  We circulated enough petitions around the world to fill the Grand Canyon.   This was before computers and emails where you can just type in your name and press ‘submit’.  Our petitions were thousands of long pieces of paper with hundreds of thousands of signatures that were gathered up and presented to our politicians.  It involved a lot of legwork, time and energy.

The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were a result of our concern for the environment.  Conservationism also gained momentum and strength during this time.  Focus was put on being more efficient and less reckless with our resources.

All of this brought about great changes in government and environmental policies.  We may not have gotten it all right.  Some of us lost our way over the years.  The fact is, there will always be a need for the people to keep an eye on our environment to make sure it’s being looked after in the right way.

So I’ve got news for all of todays young environmentalists.  We started the anti-establishment movement.  It’s because of us that you have cleaner air and cleaner water and you can marvel at the splendour of an eagle soaring overhead. So jump down off that soap box.  We led the way and paved the path.  Your generation is just following along in our footsteps, as it should. — DQ

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2 Comments on “A history lesson for todays young environmentalists”

  1. Dougal Quixote February 24, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Before the World Wars there was little need for an environment movement as there were not the multi national corporate giants and most people were of the land and lived with nature and understood it far better than any so called environmentalist. Most construction was of a human scale. The world changed during the wars and now we live with the legacy. What us older folk have though is experience over book learning and those younger should sit and listen occasionally. They might actually learn something!

    • Donna Quixote February 24, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      You’re right. There was a time when people lived more in harmony with their surroundings and waste was a sin. That time has long since vanished.

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