Dear Future Inhabitants and Caretakers of the Earth,
I feel obligated to ask for forgiveness on behalf of my generation and those who have gone before us. The world we are leaving to you is worse off in many ways than it was when we were born. We cannot change what we have done, or left undone, once we are gone. We can only instruct you from our life experiences – our mistakes, as well as successes.
Many of us in the “baby boom” generation actually started out with the best of intentions to improve the world of the future. Some of us were hippies, radical activists for social justice, environmentalists, back-to-nature advocates, new agers, Jesus freaks, and quite a few were druggies. Many of us genuinely believed that love held answers to the ills of the world, and that world peace would follow when love reigned supreme. Some pursued a carnal and sensual version of “love”, and the widespread embrace of “free love” started the modern sexual revolution, which our elders and religious leaders loudly denounced and condemned. Yet, this new “freedom” also opened a more honest discussion of formerly taboo topics about the reality and scope of our natural human sexuality.
This was a time of experimental testing of boundaries; human limits, social limits, and even exploration beyond our own planet into outer space.
In the midst of this upheaval, some began to rediscover ancient mystic traditions and eastern spiritual practices. Some gained a new appreciation for the powerful simplicity of the true teachings of Jesus Christ to transform lives, but without the baggage of traditional religions. Others, more religiously conservative, decried the moral decline of American society (as had our parents and grandparents). These noble, sometimes misguided, souls prayed and worked for a more traditional (Christian) revival as the countermeasure to the social and spiritual ills. Entering the political sphere, they became the fathers and mothers of the conservative end of our modern political movements.
Our generation pioneered some of the most creative, ground-breaking and outlandish music seen in the past hundred years. Of course I’m biased, but sixties and seventies music created or set the stage for rock and roll, hip-hop, (activist) folk, contemporary Christian , electronic, funk, and began to push “soul music” into the mainstream.
We contributed, in many ways, to the noble ideals that could have moved America, as well as the world, toward a better future for all.
But something happened along the way – many of us began to get married, have kids and worry about personal financial security, rather than world security. Many of us began to lean toward conservative political positions that claimed they would protect our interests as individuals and a nation. It seems that we started to morph into the image of our parents and grandparents, who we once rebelled against (as each generation eventually tends to do).
We saw, through most of our working careers, a time of economic growth that was probably unprecedented in most of American history. We created or contributed to much of the wealth that you, our children, and grandchildren, have enjoyed growing up. The institutions of wealth accumulation which we helped to build will probably fund most of the corporations and institutions that you will work for throughout your careers. Yet we ceded some of our personal and collective autonomy in the process, and abandoned some of our principles along the way.
We neglected to pay attention to the true cost of our explosion of wealth and population; a future debt that was being imposed on the rest of the inhabited world and the earth itself. We became a new version of the “establishment” that we resented and rejected in our idealistic youth. We participated in allowing the U.S.A. to became a nation of selfish pigs who took what we wanted, from whomever we wanted, by economic and military might. We turned a blind eye to the consequences of our actions on rest of the world and to the less fortunate among us. We became the very thing that we once hated.
It is time to tell you the truth that we have helped to hide from many of you by our actions and attitudes. Americans have had no justifiable moral right to do what we have done to many other nations of the world. “We the people” failed to rise up in righteous indignation as we saw injustice, cruelty, and hardheartedness become a part of our national culture and personality. Instead, many of us taught you that this is normal, it’s just how the world works. We taught you how to fight for your place in society, demand your rights, and even take from others when you can – that competitiveness is valued more than compassion. Many of us, as your parents, kept you ignorant of our country’s collective responsibility, along with all the other nations of the world, to preserve and conserve the limited resources of the earth. Many of us even resorted to moralistic religious arguments to justify our exploitation of human and natural resources.
Yet, in spite of all this, many of your generation began to embrace the best of the high ideals we once held. You began to think about the future of the planet you will inherit. You began to push back, to reclaim some of what you saw slipping from the grasp of you and your children. Somehow, many of you learned a deep sense of responsibility and respect for the earth. You wanted to enjoy it, yet not destroy it. You wanted to explore and experience the world beyond our national borders. You used social media to find real connections and relationships with others in the world who explained their hardships, some of which were caused our actions in the pursuit of “national interests”. You embraced the notion that we can all gain by sharing, rather than only taking. You seem to be evolving into what we should have been, doing what we should have done, while we had the ideals and energy of our youth.
I plead with you – please do not follow the worst of our example, but rather strive toward our highest ideals. Learn from our mistakes before it is too late. Rise up and let your voices be heard by those now in power. Vote with your words, feet, actions, and money to let your will be known. Don’t back down, because many of our generation will be gone in another couple decades, so you will be left to pick up many of the broken pieces on your own. You have the right and obligation to experience a future whose direction is not mandated by those with money and power. You will have to be the ones who follow through with our best intentions.
I wish you the wisdom, resolve, creativity, and ability, to leave the earth better than you found it – for the sake of you, your children, and grandchildren…because frankly, you have no other choice. May God bless you and have mercy upon you and coming generations.
…And may you find it in your heart to forgive those who have gone before you.
- “Thanks for killing the planet, boomers!” (Salon article) <http://www.salon.com/2013/12/02/thanks_for_killing_the_planet_boomers/>
- “We are deluding ourselves: The apocalypse is coming — and technology can’t save us” (Salon article) <http://www.salon.com/2013/12/09/we_are_deluding_ourselves_the_apocalypse_is_coming_and_technology_cant_save_us/>
P.S. – Since this post sounds a bit grim, I just want to let you know; there are solutions. They are not quick, easy, or cheap, but they do exist already. Future posts will illustrate some of the possibilities.
[Update Feb. 7, 2015 – added references and postscript.]