Opinion – By Peter Matthews.
Whilst researching this week’s column I was surprised to learn that I am a baby boomer. The criterion for being one is to be born between 1946 and 1964, which I was. I have long known that the baby boomers are generally held to be responsible for the rise in consumerism of recent decades, I just didn’t realise I was, even if only just, one of them . My generation was apparently wealthier, more active, more physically fit and possessed of higher expectations of the world than our forbears.
Yes, we expected more from the world and we took it. During our generation we have seen an explosion of ways in which materials can be used and discarded. We have seen ever more efficient methods of extracting raw materials from the earth. We strip mined the land to remove vast amounts of coal which we then burned to produce power to run factories to make goods which we used for a few years and then discarded. It’s OK though because economies must grow to be considered healthy and the best way for that to happen is to keep making stuff.
And there will always be an emerging economy which will happily make lots of stuff for the rest of the world to use for a while and then throw away.
When I was very young I remember seeing ‘Made in Hong Kong’ stamped on the underside of almost everything. Then it was ‘Made in Japan’, and now it is ‘Made in China’.
We baby boomers are getting on a bit now, and one of the things I, as a relatively young member of my generation, am beginning to notice is the onset of my own obsolescence.
There has been an event in our family recently which has caused us all to come together and work towards arrangements for the good of the family as a whole. Of course my instinct at first was to wade in and take control, obviously knowing what was best for all. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the wisdom, sensitivity, and calm of my two adult daughters. They have dealt with what has been a difficult situation very capably and I did not need to be in the driving seat. In several small ways since then I have noticed others doing what I used to do, and assuming responsibilities that used to be mine. I suppose I could get a bit niggly and be the grumpy old man but actually, I feel proud to be the father of such cool and able people.
We, as the responsible adults, may have created a comfortable, wealthy, consumerist society in which to live our lives, but it seems that we were missing the point at a most basic level. And we thought we were so clever.
My eldest daughter is a vegan and cares about the environment too.
Perhaps we are leaving the planet in safer hands than ours. I certainly hope so.