A Generation Used To Convenience

The Boomer generation isn’t used to being inconvenienced after all these years.

There’s a curious thing that you sometimes see in certain parts of America – signs at gas stations advertising their fuel as “100% GASOLINE! NO ETHANOL!” If you’re wondering exactly what kind of seal-clubbing, earth-befouling hillbillies these signs are meant to attract, I’d like to introduce you to my parents.

They drive giant SUVs any time they have to travel farther than two driveways away. Everything they buy is either single-serving or disposable, to assure maximum trash. They print their emails, double–bag their groceries in plastic, and run the A/C with the windows open. And, they believe that ethanol is bad for their cars because someone once forwarded them an email saying so.

I, their tomato-canning, bus-riding, cloth-napkin-using pinko commie daughter, am a constant source of mild puzzlement to them, and whenever I visit, I always try to drop a few hints.  Judgmental, yes, but I can’t help it. “You know,” I say, “you guys go through so many soda cans, it’s a shame you don’t recycle.” I even point out that their town offers free unlimited curbside pickup as well as free bins. But to them, it’s just not worth the hassle. I once asked my dad if he’d ever consider switching to grass-fed beef, explaining all the problems with factory farming. “But Allison,” he said between bites of steak, “That’s what makes it so tasty.”

We recently had a conversation in which he claimed new research is proving that oil doesn’t really come from dinosaurs, and is actually a renewable resource. I am not making this up. He was totally convinced that once the data came in, the world could forget about all this wind and solar stuff and just drill baby, drill. (I actually looked into this theory, and it’s a fairly popular topic on World Net Daily, on the home page between birther conspiracies and ads for Goldline.)

Although my parents’ tendency to throw garbage from moving cars probably puts them slightly further on the spectrum of environmental disdain than the average American, there are sadly, millions of people like them. People who will only accept green living when it becomes cheaper, easier, and more convenient than the way they live now.

It’s not that they haven’t noticed what’s happened over the past 30 years – it’s that their generation, aside from that tiny vanguard who gave us the first Earth Day, doesn’t want to be put out. They care, just not enough to do anything about it.

This difference in philosophy isn’t about Democrat versus Republican, science versus religion, or coastal versus heartland. It’s a generational thing. My parents and everyone before them grew up believing that the environment and all its bounty were simply theirs for the taking. They came of age in a time when land was plentiful, oil was cheap, America was the greatest country on earth, and God put the fish and the trees there for us to consume.

To them, slow food, reusable bags, and riding bicycles is undoing decades of technology and innovation that made life easier and more convenient. When they play golf in Las Vegas, they don’t look at lush, green desert fairways and see an abomination, they see a triumphant example of man’s ability to harness nature.

The problem isn’t just convincing people like my parents to acknowledge scientific facts or making green technology affordable and available. The problem is convincing them to endure a little inconvenience. It’s convincing them to eat a little less beef, hitch a ride to work, and leave some cake for the rest of us. It’s also convincing them of the scariest thing of all – that much of that magical progress they and their generation made wasn’t really progress at all.

I don’t know what the solution is, besides waiting for them all to die out (doesn’t that seem like the answer to all Boomer-related problems?). For now, I try to nudge my parents in the right direction when I can. They’ll never install solar panels or think about food miles, but I’ve already convinced my mom to start buying vegetables at the wonderful farm stands that populate the Midwest during the summer and fall. That’s a start. The next step, when she gets home with a dozen ears of sweet country corn, will be getting her to recycle the damn bag.

Image: Dominic’s Pics