Clean up your room

Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

I recall having watched Greta Thunberg, millennial poster child for the climate alarmists, speaking at the United Nations Climate Change summit in 2019. What 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 this UN Conference on a multi-million-dollar yacht so that she did not make a carbon contribution to the climate before returning to the Climate summit in Spain the same way to be received like a victorious Joan of Arc. Oh, how the UN delegates 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 22,000, the equivalent of 60 jumbo jets, who had travelled to the Poland climate alarmist conference the previous year and also among the 28,000 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.

The most despicable tactic of the climate alarmists is their recruiting of schoolchildren such as Greta as their foot soldiers by instilling absolute terror in their young minds of horrific apocalyptic death of all humans from the climate. It has become a religious revival movement determined to replace Christianity as manifested in the white European male. Greta has been anointed as their virgin child goddess. As a quick fact check, the climate has always been a cause of death in the world, particularly as it swings towards the extremes of heat or cold on its natural cycle. But climate as a cause of death has never been as low as it is today after a century of advanced technology, climate protection and humanitarian aid. In the 1920-30 decade, climate related deaths were recorded as 4- 500,000. By 1980 they were down to 50,000.

I have also noticed that these protestors have used as a strategy the apportioning of blame for the polluted state of our planet solely on the selfish excesses of the oldest generation still alive. ‘Ok boomers’, is now a common catch-cry which they see as a condescending patting of grandad on his deluded head. 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 most dramatically in the decade 2000 to 2010, and primarily in China. This was entirely a result of China becoming an economic ‘powerhouse’, building massive coal-powered factories to feed the millennial driven breed of “hyperstores”. The boomers were the ’boutique’ generation and the millennials have become the ‘hyperstore’ generation. Boomers considered a phone a purchase for life and repaired appliances when they failed; in the millennial era we discard quickly and buy new, mostly with a made in China tag attached. And the flow on effect are the landfills and oceans clogged with discarded waste.

Jet air travel is a massive contributor to C02 but, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced it, there was no sign of the millennial generation trimming down on demand for air travel. Scheduled services had in fact accelerated 80% in just 8 years from 2004 to 2012. The Travel industry had their business antennae set for the millennial market. A report by industry giant by Travelport said young people ages 18 to 34 were most likely to spend more money on vacations than other age groups. An Expedia poll showed also millennials travelled the most; 35 days each year to be precise.

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 their contribution to mobile phone use was relatively modest. Apple i-phone sales in 2010 were less than 40 million, but by 2017 it was well over 200 million. The massive growth in smart-phone consumption is fueled by the millennials and their social media addiction. Every smartphone 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. One very visible and tangible consequence of this vast consumption of mobile devices as well as other high tech devices and green energy systems 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 today; that population boom is based on the mining and processing of rare earth elements to satisfy the digital and green energy demands of the millennial consumers. Batou is now a seething toxic lake that is seeping into the subsoils and water table throughout northern Asia.

Batou, image credit Liam Young/ Unknown Fields

Baotou is one of the major sources today of these rare earth minerals and Batou by 2013 supplied 70% of the world’s use of these REE. But as demand has grown massively since then, 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 and to ‘go green’.

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 ‘average’ 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 superpowers that lived in constant paranoid 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 twelve 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 did something about the situation, and we made the changes. 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.

But too many of the current protest generation just want to fly around the globe from one conference junket to the next ‘having conversations’ to relitigate the actions of the boomer and earlier generations rather than actually contributing to life in a positive way. 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 life on earth does get less pleasant in coming decades, 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 lazy, impotence of their alarmist sub-category.

I stated at the outset of this chapter 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). In reflection, I believe the first generation of humans to be born into the social media environment are a very troubled generation, psychologically. Society was simply not prepared for that degree of personal intrusion which has resulted in a highly anxious and paranoid generation. The boomers faced similar cataclysmic threats but, in general terms, were emotionally more capable of living with the threat of nuclear holocaust and getting on with life. We just had to have faith in the survival instinct of humanity.

But yet even today when ecological fear permeates the environment and creates a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ generation, there is a beacon of hope; and hope brings faith. We have 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 Clean-up 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 six years of research, development and trialing, in late 2019 the system has started successfully collecting plastic waste from the ocean. 1,000 riverways have been identified as contributing 80% of the ocean junk clutter. In 2021 Coca Cola have become a global partner to help rollout the ‘interceptor’ programme to catch the rubbish before it reaches the oceans. 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.

Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Boyan, from an old boomer, ‘I love you, man.’

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