Given Rappahannock County’s disproportionate number of older citizens – and of those, an especially large population of so-called Baby Boomers – the conversation here is often about the things we think we’re now entitled to, like Social Security and Medicare. I know, because I’m a Boomer myself.
But what of the things not owed to us, but that we Boomers owe to others? Especially to our children and our children’s children – to leave them a planet as unsullied as we found it.
We have this responsibility because, in the words of a new organization called FiftyOverFifty.org, “We are the beneficiaries of an unprecedented explosion of affluence made possible by cheap fossil fuels. Most of the excess atmospheric carbon now cooking the planet was emitted during our lifetimes by residents of a handful of high-income countries, most notably the United States. While none of us individually is to blame for global warming, collectively we Boomers are responsible for a bigger chunk of emissions than any other group of people on the planet, or indeed any generation that came before us.”
The organization derives its name from its hope that in each of the 50 states at least some of those citizens over 50 years of age will engage in peaceful civil disobedience to push for sensible climate policies – “to avert catastrophe.” The tactics it proposes are in the long American tradition of civil disobedience, from Henry David Thoreau through Martin Luther King.
“The greatest moments in the lives of the Baby Boomers were precisely the times when they raised their voices, when they declared their selfless devotion to peace or civil rights,” says environmentalist Bill McKibben. “For too many, the decades that followed have made a quiet mockery of that earlier idealism. It turns out that we’ve excelled, most of all, at consuming. Now is the Boomers’ chance to reclaim their better natures and to end their run as they began.
“If someone has to sit down on the tracks of the coal train and get arrested, it should be the grandparents who have been pouring carbon into the atmosphere for half a century!”