I watched Greta Thunberg, millennial poster child for the climate alarmists, speaking at the United Nations. What anger and venom was in that face and in the words she spoke. And the new darling set the stage by so publicly promoting that she sailed to the UN Conference on a multi-million dollar yacht so that she did not make a carbon contribution to the climate. Oh how they cheered, the irony lost on the adoring audience that they, in contrast, had all flown first class from around the globe to listen to her live, in person. And many of them possibly also numbered among the 28,000, the equivalent of 70 jumbo jets, who had travelled to the Poland climate alarmist conference the previous year and also among the 40,000 alarmists who had travelled to the earlier Paris alarmist conference. But they applauded the example that this child showed us by travelling on a yacht that not even the reasonably wealthy boomer, whose ‘capitalist excesses’ she despises, could ever hope to afford.
I have started noticing how many of these millennial climate alarmists have started referring to my generation most disrespectfully with the dismissive phrase: ‘ok boomers’, which they see as a more clever version of patting grandad on his deluded head (and I use the word ‘clever’ quite incorrectly). We have apparently earned that disrespect because we are accused of being the generation that, through the burning of fossil fuels, has made a complete mess of the environment and left them a legacy of an uninhabitable planet.
I don’t want to take the bait, wade in and fuel the animosity, but we do need to do a bit of a fact check on the charges made by these alarmists against us as boomers. It seems such a silly attack because generations are not fixed date separations. The generational transfer is quite fluid and while there will be evolving cultural footprints, exactly when they started and when they ended is very difficult to define. But let us look at a few key trends over the relevant decades:
Coal burning, one of the big contributors to C02 in the atmosphere, accelerated dramatically in the decade 2000 to 2010, and primarily in China. This was entirely as a result of China becoming an economic ‘powerhouse’, building massive factories to feed the new breed of “hyperstores”. The economic powerhouses of the boomer generation were Europe and the USA whose coal consumption was, comparatively, very modest. But what generation fuelled this hyperstore boom? The boomers were the ’boutique’ generation, it is the millennials that have become the ‘hyperstore’ generation. Boomers repaired appliances, millennials discard and buy new. And the flow on effect are the landfills and oceans clogged with discarded waste.
Look at the trend in passenger air travel kilometres graph. No sign of the millennial generation trimming down on demand for air travel. Scheduled services have in fact accelerated 80% in just 8 years from 2004 to 2012. The Travel industry have their business antennae set for the the millennial market. A report by industry giant by Travelport says young people ages 18 to 34 are most likely to spend more money on vacations than other age groups. An Expedia poll shows also millennials travel the most; 35 days each year to be exact.
But it is not just the airline industry that the millennials consume with voracious appetites. By 2010 the average boomer was 50-60 years old and had a limited demand for mobile phones and their contribution to mobile phone use is displayed in the left side of the graph attached. Shift along to 2015 – 2018 and just watch the impact on i-phone consumption by the millennials.
Every i-phone is a handful of rare earth elements (as are the mechanisms of wind power generators and electric motors, but that’s another story for another time). Rare earth elements are separated from the rest of the earth by a highly toxic chemical process. The millennials consider mobile phones to be disposable items to be discarded and replaced every time someone tweaks a camera setting in a new model. The very visible and tangible consequence of this vast consumption of mobile devices is, in a word, Baotou. That is a city in Mongolia that has grown to a population from under 100,000 when the boomers were born, to 2.5 million; based on the mining and processing of rare earth elements to satisfy the demands of the millennial consumers.
Baotou is one of the major sources today of these rare earth minerals and China has, up until 2013, supplied 90% of the world supply of REE. But as demand has grown massively since 2013 other countries are getting in on the market. India, USA, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia and Brazil are all now mining rare earth elements. What started hidden away in ‘out of sight out of mind’ Mongolia and Northern China is now coming to a country near you, and all to satisfy the insatiable demand of the millennials to discard a 12 month old phone for the latest model.
The millennials are also the generation that has brought in the Uber Eats mentality because they do not think they should have to cook their own meals. Paying for cars to drive around and around the block, pouring emissions into the atmosphere so that a car is always on hand to pick them up a burger when they feel the whim.
The alarmist millennials are spreading anxiety around the world like a virus all because the temperature has warmed by 0.8 degrees C since 1880 and the seas are rising at 1 – 2 mm pa. The reality is that the planet has been warming annually, and sea levels rising, consistently since the last ice age ended. In fact scientific ice core analysis shows that Antarctica warmed about 20 degrees in the years from 20,000 to 10,000 years ago (while the rest of the planet warmed only 4 degrees over that period), the ice age was coming to its natural end. That was a process of nature and processes of nature extend over tens of thousands of years, not over decades. Of course no alarmist is still reading because the official stance of millennial-controlled media is now to refuse to debate the issue. That decision exposes them as propagandists rather than journalists.
If you want to know how to handle global anxiety, you could do worse than talk to a boomer. We boomers grew up knowing that two men who represented two super powers that lived in constant paranoiac fear of each other, each carried a suitcase around with him everywhere he went in which was a button that could launch enough nuclear rockets to destroy the planet several times over in a matter of hours. When I was 12 we had the Cuba standoff crisis between these two nations that had us all just waiting for the minute that life-ending nuclear war started. Technology development in the previous generation had introduced nuclear power. Nuclear power was seen as a clean and highly effective alternative to fossil-burning coal power. As indeed it is, in theory. The phallic atomic bomb came as a very unwelcome side product driven by the ambitions of Hitler, just as viagra was initially developed as a medicinal treatment for high blood pressure.
So, in our youth we protested to our elders, as youth will always do. We were the “Make love not war” generation and when we achieved our own democratic influence on the world we actually did something about the situation and we made the changes.
The graph below shows the dramatic decline in battle deaths from the 1970’s, the decades of the boomers in control.
This boomer generation built social bridges and healed the deep rifts of generations past. Racially bigoted laws in the USA were overturned as were laws against same-sex relationships. Racial slurs were replaced in common speech with respectful racial distinctions; ‘queers’ of previous generations became ‘gays’. Tolerance was the byword of boomers.
In the decade when boomers were approaching adulthood, well over ten million people had died from famine. Boomers were the “Live Aid” generation determined to end famine in Africa. We cared about the plight of the poor people of the world. We raised the money, we invested in Africa, we got results.
The dramatic reduction in death by famine during our watch is demonstrated in the attached graph.
But too many of the current protest generation, rather than get on and do something about the challenges of life, just want to fly around the globe from one conference junket to the next ‘having conversations’ and looking for someone to blame. And they skulk in the background, grooming their “Gen. Z’ children like Greta to demand that their grandparents start doling out their life savings, as they believe is their entitlement. If these millennial alarmists just keep playing the blame game as their only contribution to humanity, and if the 20/20 Generation do experience what their Greta poster child is predicting, either by natural means or as a result of this generation’s rampant consumerism, it won’t be the boomers that Gen. 20/20 will be pointing the finger of shame at, it will be the self indulgence of the millennial generation and the impotence of their alarmist sub category.
I stated at the outset that I did not want to take the bait and fuel the animosity and then I proceeded to swallow the bait whole and throw gasoline on the debate (if you will excuse the awfully clumsy mixing of metaphors) with graphs, pictures and commentary. In reflection, with my indignation appeased, I do have to accept that the youth generation today is not too dissimilar to we baby boomers in our youth. They are genuinely frightened of catastrophic pollution and the impact on their generation just as we were equally genuinely frightened of catastrophic nuclear war and the impact on our generation. Eventually we just learned to live with the threat of nuclear holocaust and got on with life. We just had to have faith in the survival instinct of humanity.
And today, when ecological fear permeates the environment, there is a beacon of hope; and hope brings faith. A young man who is as fearless and creative as Greta Thunberg is frightened and helpless. His name is Boyan Slat. As a teenager, this young Dutch engineering student witnessed the state of the sea while diving in Greece and decided to do something about it. Today, still in his twenties, he is CEO of an organisation called Ocean Cleanup that has attracted over $30 million in funding from Silicon Valley and European corporations to develop the technology to both extract plastic from the ocean and to intercept plastic waste at their river sources. The challenges were huge but after 6 years of research, development and trialling, the system has now started successfully collecting plastic waste from the ocean in late 2019. Their next stage is the development of products made from this recycled plastic. His is a story we all should follow closely. He is the Steve Jobs of this young generation, with the intelligence and attitude to create real life solutions to, and opportunities from, our economic and environmental challenges.
What a pity Greta Thunberg did not talk about Boyan Slat when she got the chance at the UN. Greta Thunberg’s speechwriters, who made such a big point about her sailing to that conference across the ocean as her ‘save the planet’ contribution, did not once promote Boyan Slat’s impressive entrepreneurial work to clean up the ocean that she had just sailed on. On the contrary she proclaimed, on behalf of the millennial generation, that solutions were nowhere in sight.
Boyan Slat is a beacon offering the alternative path. He offers faith in the survival instinct and creativity of home sapiens to do what homo sapiens have done for 200,000 years. Solve the problem they face, clean up the oceans, clean up the rivers.
Boyan, from an old boomer, ‘I love you, man.’