From reading media reports and spending time on social media, it feels environment is the preserve of GenY and GenZ. Shamefully, the backlash and abuse against Greta Thunberg and other campaigners is mostly but not exclusively from people old enough to be her parents and grandparents.
It’s easy to feel that Baby Boomers and GenXers just don’t care about your future. As a middle-aged man with no children, nothing could be further from the truth for me though.
I care deeply about the future I will leave to my nephew and niece, any more I might have from here on in and everyone born from today onwards. Let me take you back to when I first became environmentally aware.
My Relationship with Environmentalism in the 90s
I first became environmentally aware in the 90s. That’s before most UK authorities had a recycling policy, let along facilities for recycling glass and metal.
I remember fishing glass and metal out of the bin to wash up and take to the local Tesco. That was me doing my part now though today it feels it wasn’t enough. I was laughed at, though gently, as a “greenie” and told that my small efforts wouldn’t make a difference in the long run. Yet soon, other people started recycling too. Councils eventually opened recycling facilities at refuse tips. We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.
My interest in environment and desire to do something began before that. I used to walk to sixth form college. It was only 1.5 miles and some friends who lived closer would drive. Memories in chemistry and geography about acid rain and the damage to the ozone layer stuck with me and set me on this path.
Things have changed since then and not always for the best. We’ve become divided on this as a country and I cannot understand why this issue more than most others appears to drive that division. I’ve always felt the greatest responsibility is to those not yet born.
Anxious About My Future, and Yours
I turned 46 this year. That’s an age where the end of my life still seems so far away but an age where I’ve long since stopped being “young”.
30 years ago, I was 16. In another 30, if I am still around, I will be 76 – the average human lifespan. In my 40s halfway between youth and at the limit of the average human lifespan, I am aware I must be more mindful of the life decisions I make and how it impacts or will impact my health. I expect to need healthcare more often as I head towards and then into and beyond my 50s.
The coming 30 years is long enough to see younger family members grow up, leave school, and possibly go to university. By this time, they will have a career of their own maybe will have settled down with a life partner and have children of their own. I must ask myself what sort of world would we like to leave them? What sort of a world are generations unborn going to be arrive in if we don’t do something while we can to make that the best world we possibly can, for their life and livelihood, for their health and opportunities?
I want a healthy world for everyone where something unavoidable like the environment isn’t a primary reason people seek healthcare. That will affect me while I am alive, and the generations born after I am gone. For that, I do what I can to create a greener world.
If the evidence is wrong about the damage we do, then the worst we can say is we created a healthier and cleaner world for nothing. If we are right, well…
How I’m Trying to Help
We have come a long way since the 1990s. My girlfriend and I have really tried to change how we engage with environmental issues. We’ve become much more socially conscious.
We keep our food waste to a minimum. Most people don’t realise this is one of the biggest problems facing the environment. It’s as big a problem as plastic. For us, leftovers go in the freezer and we divide meat into portions in containers, taking out only when needed.
We shop locally. In 2019 we discovered a roadside greengrocer and now get most of our fruit and vegetables there. We take bags with us and only buy what we need. Two carrots, four potatoes, a handful of mushrooms for the week – we are a child free couple and don’t need to stock up. Our food waste has gone down significantly as stuff rarely goes rotten compared to when we had to buy large bags at the supermarket.
But what if food does go rotten? We occasionally pick out a bad apple which only reveals itself as rotten a day or two after purchase. It goes on the compost heap ready for the allotment we took on in January 2020. We intend to grow more of our own stuff, especially staples like carrots and potatoes. I’m keen for a wildflower bed to help pollinators. I’m a nature photographer in my spare time and love capturing bees going about their business. It’s one of my simple spring/summer pleasures.
We’re aiming for zero plastic but finding it tough. We shop at the local roadside greengrocer for most fruit and vegetables which makes it far easier but it’s hard to avoid completely. We buy as little plastic packaged stuff as necessary, preferring glass bottles for common grocery items such as ketchup.
I am an unashamed coffee snob. Around 10 years ago, I started primarily and then solely buying certified coffee (Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and other ethical labelling). My partner is a tea drinker and does the same. It’s hard not to buy produce from overseas. Plus, there are the problems of not doing so –developing countries who depend on fruit, tea & coffee, bananas and other exports need the trade. It’s important to us to ensure that the everyday produce and luxuries we buy is produced with the utmost concern for the ecology and the people working on those farms.
Never let indifference or disparaging comments put you off speaking out for your future. But know that you are not alone. There are many people from all walks of life of all ages who care enough about this issue to try to make a difference for everyone. Just this week, the world’s oldest man told the world to “listen to Greta”.
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