Dear Lilly and Evelyn,
You two children are so innocent and unassuming in your entrance into this world, trusting ultimately your parents to provide the essentials of life, including safety, for you. Your mothers, my granddaughters, faced the same circumstances a generation ago, and their mothers, my daughters, same thing two generations ago.
The question here is: Have each of our generations done what is necessary to provide that safety for the up-coming inhabitants of this earth? Or have we concentrated so much on our own comforts and interests that the future safety is not of major importance?
You see, I grew up in this land of opportunity, which frequently translates into extensive use (and abuse) of the materials we inherited from our parents. Why would we be concerned about conservation of resources, or efficiency in handling the breakdown products of those resources? It’s called progress. We can’t allow concern about resources interfere with our forward march. Science is king and the byproducts that make our lives more comfortable are the aim of the entrepreneurs of our society.
When I was a child, then a youth, things were much simpler. Who cared about gas mileage when gasoline cost 22 cents per gallon? When things outgrew their usefulness, they were thrown or pushed into a landfill, chemicals and all, without concern about contamination of our environment, including our drinking water. Witness the near-death of Lake Erie several decades ago. G-d, like the old video of the elderly native American, is looking at our devastation of the land with tears in His eyes.
When did our lack of concern about our world begin to show itself? Before the industrial age and with the population crowded only in the large cities, the accumulation of waste was not so noticeable. But with the increase in population of the world (we have half again as many people on this earth now as there were when I was born), there is much more waste produced.
Multiply that by the waste from the industry that has evolved to keep us comfortable, help us to travel faster between two points, increase our food supply and modify it; and then we have a spiraling conundrum of increasing things we “need” versus the increasing waste and production of heat that comes with these developments. My travels to developing countries have shown me that poverty does not eliminate wastefulness, it just reduces the baseline amount of material to be “trashed”. Disregard for sanitation as we know it comes from not being able to see or appreciate cause and effect in producing illness. Do we not have a similar disregard for “illness” we give to our next generations?
Where does this end? It is almost anti-societal if not anti-American to speak of reining in our accouterments (in many cases “toys”) for the benefit of a future with less restrictions needed. The “logic” of not changing our ways in order to benefit our future is akin to asking a person who smokes to stop in order to prevent lung problems – curbing our desires of the present for the unseen and nebulous effects on a future not our own. It must be approached as an investment in your quality of life. In a financial climate in which saving “for a raining day” is not a priority for a large percentage of the population, especially the young, the environmental climate effects from our current “spending” will be a hard sell. We must get outside ourselves and our conveniences to see the future through the eyes of your children, and your children’s children, and . . .
Your Great Grandfather