This Green Thing
There is an amusing monolog on the innertubes these days. It is a grumpy old person talking about the old days. It starts out like this:
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
Plastic bags ARE bad for the earth. There is a spot in the Pacific Ocean where non degradable junk collects. This saltwater trashpile is the size of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and, like the ACC, gets bigger all the time. It dribbles and shoots year round.
In a perfect world, people might bring their own bags, and those bags would be made of environmentally friendly materials. However, a lot of us are not that organized. A lot of those tote bags are made of materials that degrade the environment. And then there is the paper versus plastic dilemma. Yes, paper is a renewable resource, and is buddies with that part of the environment that is not downwind from a paper mill. The problem is that paper bags weigh a lot more than plastic bags. When you ship these bags from the factory to the store, you use more fuel to ship the paper bags.
Getting back to the battle of the generations, PG finds himself caught in the middle. He remembers black and white television, jim crow, and cigarettes smoked everywhere. There are a few things things the oldtimers seem to forget. It wasn’t that long ago that PG was a kid, and hearing people say they feel sorry for your generation. Now, PG is the old fogie, and can see the points made by both the old lady and the young clerk.
The first earth day was in 1970. The concern over the ecology was something that hippies did when the war in Vietnam started to wind down. A lot of these people … i.e. the ones who cared about the earth … are the old generation that the young clerk is fussing about.
“Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.”
In the fifties, gas powered lawn mowers were everywhere. Electric mixers were in a lot of kitchens. Just how old is this lady?
Black and white TV was not all that great. There were frequent breaks in the transmission due to technical problems. The sets had something called fine tuning. If that knob went a cat’s hair too far to the right, the picture tube would have a bunch of bars, followed by the picture, followed by a bunch of bars, followed by the picture. This kinetic parade would roll down the viewing area, until someone walked over to the tv and moved the fine tuning a cat’s hair to the left.
Meanwhile, someone in the living room was either lighting, smoking, or putting out a cigarette. Back in those days, people smoked whenever and whereever they wanted to. The idea of second hand smoke had not been invented. Even if it had, few would have cared. There were reports about lung cancer, but they were laughed off.
The lady in the photograph is white. This probably helps her memories of how good the old days were. In the pre civil rights era, people that were not white did not have it so good.
Here again, PG finds himself in the middle. In the early sixties, PG was horrified by the anti-black racism in Georgia. If you said that maybe negroes are not all that bad, you would hear about it for the next hour. These days, if PG does not vigorously condemn the racial attitudes of certain people, he considered racist. Sometimes you just can’t win. Bullies will be bullies.
It is easy to make fun of political correctness. Sometimes people get carried away, and forget to look in the mirror. The thing is, all people are G-d’s children. Sometimes, what you thoughtlessly say can hurt someone. Which generation gets the credit, and the debit, for caring about their neighbors?
In a sense, the fifties were the test tube generation. Nuclear bombs were tested in the desert, with little regard for the radiation. Powerful drugs were coming on the market, and doctors were eager to prescribe them. The side effects became known later, after the damage was done. The gas guzzling cars spewed poison into the air, and no one cared. Maybe it was because the drivers were bombed. Drunk driving was not seen as a problem.
To be fair, many of the old ladies points are valid. The same is true of the young clerk. One day, if she is lucky, the young clerk will be the old lady.