The Apology: from baby boomers to the handicapped generations

Climate activism by children is a sign of hope that young people might be ready for the radical alternatives that permaculture and kindred movements have been building in the darkening shadows of the destructive economy.

The Apology: from the baby boomers to the handicapped generations was penned by David Holmgren over the summer solstice of 2018 but it is a theme he has been mulling over for many years. Modelled on the Rudd Apology to the stolen generations, the following apology is a clear sighted admission of his generation’s failures from one of the pioneers of modern ecological thinking. It speaks directly to the generations inheriting a troubled legacy on multiple fronts. If this awakens recognition in baby boomers this apology will have been of value. If it galvanises a sense of urgency and positive personal and collective action by younger people then David still sees hope for a prosperous and equitable way down.

The Apology: from baby boomers to the handicapped generations

It is time for us baby boomers to honestly acknowledge what we did and didnt do with the gifts given to us by our forebears and be clear about our legacy with which we have saddled the next and succeeding generations.

By ‘baby boomers’ I mean those of us born in the affluent nations of the western world between 1945 and 1965. In these countries, the majority of the population became middle class beneficiaries of mass affluence. I think of the high birth rate of those times as a product of collective optimism about the future, and the abundant and cheap resources to support growing families.

By many measures, the benefits of global industrial civilisation peaked in our youth, but for most middle class baby boomers of the affluent countries, the continuing experience of those benefits has tended to blind us to the constriction of opportunities faced by the next generations: unaffordable housing and land access, ecological overshoot and climate chaos amongst a host of other challenges.

I am a white middle class man born in 1955 in Australia, one of the richest nations of the ‘western world’ in the middle of the baby boom, so I consider myself well placed to articulate an apology on behalf of my generation.

In the life of a baby boomer born in 1950 and dying in 2025 (a premature death according to the expectations of our generation), the best half the worlds endowment of oil – the potent resource that made industrial civilisation possible – will have been burnt. This is tens of millions of years of stored sunlight from a special geological epoch of extraordinary biological productivity. Beyond our basic needs, we have been the recipients of manufactured wants and desires. To varying degrees, we have also suffered the innumerable downsides, addictions and alienations that have come with fossil-fuelled consumer capitalism.

It is also true that our generation has used the genie of fossil fuels to create wonders of technology, organisation and art, and a diversity of lifestyles and ideas. Some of the unintended consequences of our way of life, ranging from antibiotic resistance to bubble economics, should have been obvious, while others, such as the depression epidemic in rich countries, were harder to foresee. Our travel around the world has broadened our minds, but global tourism has contaminated the amazing diversity of nature and traditional cultures at an accelerating pace. We have the excuse that innovations always have pluses and minuses, but it seems we have got a larger share of the pluses and handballed more of the minuses to the world’s poorest countries and to our children and grandchildren.

We were the first generation to have the clear scientific evidence that emergent global civilisation was on an unsustainable path that would precipitate an unravelling of both nature and society through the 21st century. Although climate chaos was a less obvious outcome than the no-brainer of resource depletion, international recognition of the reality of climate change came way back in 1988, just as we were beginning to get our hands on the levers of power, and we have presided over decades of policies that have accelerated the problem. Over the years since, the adverse outcomes have shifted from distant risks to lived realities. These impact hardest on the most vulnerable peoples of the world who have yet to taste the benefits of the carbon bonanza that has driven the accelerating climate catastrophe. For the failure to share those benefits globally and curb our own consumption we must be truly sorry

 Photo: woodleywonderworks

In the 1960s and 70s, during our coming of age, a significant proportion of us were critical of what was being passed down to us by our parent’s generation who were also the beneficiaries of the western world system, which some of us baby boomers recognised as a global empire. But our grandparents and parents had been shaped by the rigours and grief of the first global depression of the 1890s, the First World War, The Great Depression of the 1930s and, of course, the Second World War. Aside from those who served in Vietnam, we have cruised through life avoiding the worst threats of nuclear annihilation and economic depression, even as people in other countries suffered the consequences of superpower proxy wars, coups, and economic and environmental catastrophes.

While some of us were burnt by personal and global events, we have mostly led a charmed existence and had the privilege to question our upbringing and culture. We were the first generation in history to experience an extended adolescence of experimentation and privilege with little concern or responsibility for our future, our kin or our country.

Most baby boomers were raised in families where commuting was the norm for our fathers but a home-based lifestyle was still a role model we got from our mothers. In our enthusiasm for women to have equal access to productive work in the monetary economy, few of us noticed that without work to keep the household economy humming we lost much of our household autonomy to market forces. By our daily commutes, mostly alone in our cars, we entrenched this massively wasteful and destructive action as normal and inevitable.

As we came into our power in middle age, the new technology of the internet, workshop tool miniaturisation and other innovations provided more options to participate in the monetary economy without the need to commute, but our generation continued with this insane collective addiction. In Australia, we faithfully followed the American model of not investing in public transport, which moderated the adverse impacts of commuting in European and other countries not so structurally addicted to road transport. By failing to build decent public transport and the opportunities for home-based work, and wasting wealth in a frenzy of freeway building that has choked our cities, our generation has consumed our grandchildren’s inheritance of high quality transport fuels and accelerated the onset of climate chaos. For this we are truly sorry.

In pioneering the double income family, some of us set the pattern for the next generation’s habit of outsourcing the care of children at a young age, making commuting five days a week an early childhood experience. This has left the next generation unable to imagine a life that doesn’t involve leaving home each day.

These patterns are part of a larger crisis created by the double income, debt-laden households with close to 100% dependence on the monetary economy. Without robust and productive household economies, our children and grandchildren’s generations will become the victims of savage disruptions and downturns in the monetary economy. For failing to maintain and strengthen the threads of self-provision, frugality and self-reliance most of us inherited from our parents, we should be truly sorry.

Photo from here.

Some of us felt in our hearts that we needed to create a different and better world. Some of us saw the writing on the walls of the world calling for global justice. Some of us read the evidence (mostly clearly in the 1972 Limits To Growth) that attempting to run continuous material growth on finite planet would end in more than tears.

Some of us even rejected the legacy of previous generations of radicals’ direct action against the problems of the world, and instead decided we would boldly create the world we wanted by living it each day. In doing so, we experienced hard-won lessons and even created some hopeful models for succeeding generations to improve on in more difficult conditions. That our efforts at novel solutions often created more sound than substance, or that we flitted from one issue to another rather than doing the hard yards necessary to pass on truly robust design solutions for a world of less, leaves some of us with regrets for which we might also feel the need to apologise.

These experiences are shared to some degree by a minority in all generations but there is significant evidence that the 1960s and 70s was a time when awareness of the need for change was stronger. Unfortunately, a sequence of titanic geopolitical struggles that few of us understand even today, a debt-fuelled version of consumer capitalism, and propaganda against both the Limits to Growth and the values of the counterculture, saw most of us following the neoliberal agenda like sheep into the 1980s and beyond.

After having played with the privilege of free tertiary education, most of us fell for the propaganda and sent our children off to accumulate debts and doubtful benefits in the corporatised businesses that universities became. We convinced our children they needed more specialised knowledge poured down their throats rather than using their best years to build the skills and resilience for the challenges our generation was bequeathing to them. For this we must be truly sorry.

Many of us have been the beneficiaries of buying real estate before the credit-fuelled final stages of casino capitalism made that option a recipe for debt slavery for our children. Without understanding its mechanics we have contributed to – and fuelled with our faith – a bubble economy on a vast scale that can only end in pain and suffering for the majority. While some of us are members of the bank of Mum and Dad, when the property bubble bursts we could find ourselves following the bank chiefs apologising for the debt burden we encouraged our children to take on. Some of us will also have to apologise for losing the family home when we went guarantor on their mortgages. For not heeding the warnings we got with the GFC, we will be truly sorry.

Some of us have used our windfall wealth from real estate and the stock market to do good works, including creating small models of more creative and lower footprint futures that have inspired the minority of the next generations who can also see the writing on the wall. But most of us used our houses as ATMs for new forms of consumption that were unimaginable to our parents, from holidays around the world to endless renovations and a constant flow of updated digital gadgets and virtual diversions. For this frivolous squandering of our windfall wealth we must be truly sorry.

While our parents generation experienced the risks of youth through adversity and war we used our privilege to tackle challenges of our own choosing. Although some of us had to struggle to free ourselves from the cloying cocoon of middle class upbringing, we were the generation that flew like the birds and hitchhiked around the country and the world. How strange that on becoming parents (many of us in middle age) we believed the propaganda that the world was too dangerous for our children to do the same around the local neighbourhood. Instead we coddled them, got into the chauffeuring business, and in doing so encouraged their disconnection from both nature and community. As we see our grandchildren’s generation raised in a way that makes them an even more handicapped generation, we must be truly sorry for the path we took and the dis-ease we created.

After so many of us experimented with mind-expanding plants and chemicals, some of us were taken down in chemical addictions, but it was dysfunctional and corrupt legal prohibitions more than the substances themselves that were to blame for the worst of the damage. So how strange that when in middle age we got our hands on the levers of power, most of our generation decided to continue to support the madness of prohibition. For this we must be truly sorry: to have seen the light but then continued to inflict this burden on our children and grandchildren. For having acquiesced in the global ‘war on drugs’ that spread pain and suffering to some of the poorest peoples of the world we should be ashamed.

When the ‘war on drugs’ (a war against substances!) became the model for the ‘war on terror’ (war against a concept!) some of us reawakened the anti-war activism of the Vietnam years but in the end we mostly acquiesced to an agenda of trashing international law, regime change, shock and awe, chaos, and the death of millions; all justified by the 9/11 demolition fireworks that killed a small fraction of the number of citizens that die each year as a result of our ongoing addiction to personal motorised mobility.

While the shadow cast by climate change darkens our grandchilden’s future, the shadow of potential nuclear winter that hung over our childhood as not gone away. Many of us were at the forefront of the international movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons and thought the collapse of the Soviet Union had saved us from that threat. Coming into our power after the end of the cold war, our greatest crime on this geopolitical front has perhaps been the tacit support of our generation for first, the economic rape of Russia in the 1990s, and then its progressive encirclement by the relentless expansion of NATO. In Australia we have meekly added our resources and youth to more or less endless wars in the Middle East and central Asia justified by the fake ‘war on terror’. For this weakness as accessories to global crimes wasting wealth and lives to consolidate the western powers’ control of the first truly global empire, we should hang our collective heads in shame.

While some of our generation’s intellectuals continued to critique the ‘war on terror’ as fake, the vast majority of the public intellectuals of our generation, including those on the left, have supported the rapid rise of Cold War 2.0 to contain Russia, China and any other country that doesn’t accept what we now call ‘the rules based international order’ (code for ‘our empire’). This is truly astonishing when looked at in the context of our lived history. Let us hope that sanity can prevail as our empire fades and future generations don’t brand us as the most insane, war-mongering generation of all time. For our complicity in this grand failure of resistance we should be truly sorry.

Photo of the author by Jesse Graham

 
On another equally titanic front, the mistake of giving legal personhood to corporations was not one that our generation made. However most of us have contributed our work, consumption and capital to assist these self-organising, profit-maximising, cost-minimising machines of capitalism morphing into emergent new life forms that threaten to consume both nature and humanity in an algorithmic drive for growth. At a time of our seniority and numbers, we failed to use the Global Financial Crisis as an opportunity to bring these emergent monsters to heal. Do our children have the capacity to tame the monsters that we nurtured from fragile infants to commanding masters? And if they do find the will to withdraw their work, consumption and capital enough to contain the corporations, will the economy that currently provides for both needs and wants unravel completely? This is a burden so great most of us continue to believe we have no responsibility or agency in such a dark reality. We trust that history will not place the burden of responsibility on our generation alone. But for our part in this failure of agency over human affairs we apologise. Further, we should accept with grace the consequences for our own wellbeing.

Most of us feel impotent when thinking of these failures to control the excesses of our era, but on a more modest scale we have mindlessly participated in taking the goods and passing on the debt to future generations. No more so than in our habitual acceptance of antibiotics from doctors to fix the most mundane of illnesses. For our parents’ generation, antibiotics represented the peak of medical science’s ability to control what killed so many of their parents and earlier generations. For us, they became routine tools to keep us on the job and our children not missing precious days at school. Through this banal practice we have unwittingly conspired with our doctors to rapidly breed resistance to the most effective and low-cost antibiotics. We took for granted that future generations would always be able to work out ways to keep ahead of diseases with an endless string of new antibiotics. For having squandered this gift we are truly sorry.

Further, despite the fact that some of us have became vegetarian or even vegan, our generation’s demand for cheap chicken and bacon has driven the industrial dosing of animals with antibiotics on a scale that has accelerated the development of antibiotic resistance far faster than would have been the case from us dosing ourselves and our children. For supporting this and other such obscene systems of animal husbandry we apologise to our grandchildren and succeeding generations and hope that somehow an accommodation between humanity, animals and microbes is still possible.

We experienced and benefited from the emergent culture of rights and recognition for women, minorities and the people of varied abilities, and many of us who fought to extend and deepen those rights have pride in what we did. However some of us are beginning to fear that in doing so we contributed to creating new demands, disabilities, and fractious subcultures of fear and angst unimagined in previous generations. While we might not be in the driving seat of identity politics and culture wars, we raised our children to demand their rights in a world that is unravelling due to its multiple contradictions. In this emerging context, strident demands for rights are likely to be a waste of valuable energy that younger people might better focus on becoming useful to themselves and others. For overemphasising the demand for rights and underplaying the need for responsible self- and collective-reliance, perhaps we should also be sorry.

And is this escalating demand for rights by younger people itself connected, even peripherally, to the increasing callus disregard for the rights of others? Especially in the case of refugees, this careless disregard has allowed political elites to use tough treatment of the less fortunate to distract from the gradual loss of shared privilege that once characterised the ‘lucky country’. To the shame of those in power over the last two decades (mostly baby boomers) those policies are now being adopted on a larger scale in Europe and the US.

In our lifetimes religious faith has declined. For many of our generation, this change represents a measure of humanity’s progress from a benighted past to a promising future. But the collective belief in science and evidence-based decision making has now become a new faith, “Scientism”, which seeks to drive out all other ways of thinking and being from the public space. At the same time, religious fundamentalism is now resurgent. Is this too something that our generation unleashed by preaching tolerance while enforcing an ideology we didn’t even recognise as such?

A significant sign of the good intentions of our generation has been our recognition that the ancient war against nature, which has plagued human life since the beginnings of agriculture, and indeed civilisation, must end. One powerful expression of our efforts has been the valuing of the biodiversity of life, especially local indigenous biodiversity. In the ‘New Europes’ of North America and the Antipodes, seeking to save indigenous biodiversity has grown into an institutionalised form of atonement for the sins of the forefathers. While this seems like one of our achievements, even this we have bastardised with a new war against naturalised biodiversity. Perhaps the worst aspect of this renewed war against novel ecologies is that we have accepted the helping hand of Monsanto in using Roundup as the main weapon in our urban and rural habitats. The mounting evidence that Roundup may be worse than DDT will be part of our legacy. While history may excuse our parent’s generation for naïve optimism in relation to DDT, our generation’s version of the war on nature will not save us from harsh judgement. For this we should be truly sorry.

Of course any public apology in this country invites comparisons to the apology by governments to the stolen generation of Australian indigenous peoples for the wrongs of the past. This unfinished sorry business is beyond the scope of this apology, but it is an opportunity to reflect critically on our common self-perception of supporting indigenous peoples’ rights in contrast to the normalised racism of previous generations. Our generation’s invitation to, and enabling of, Australians of indigenous decent to more fully participate in mainstream Australian society may have been a necessary step towards reconciliation; or could it have been a poison challis drawing them even deeper into the dysfunctions of industrial modernity that I have already outlined. We can only hope that people with such a history of resilience and understanding in the face dispossession will take these additional burdens in their stride.

In any case, this apology is not one that comes from a position of invulnerable privilege, giving succour to those who are no threat to that privilege. For many baby boomers, now caring for parents and dealing with their deaths, we are more inwardly focused. For some of us, especially those estranged from parents, through this both painful and tender processes we are finally growing up. But a comic tragedy could play out in our declining years if a combination of novel disabilities, the culture of rights and amplified fears lead to our children and grandchildren’s generations to mostly experiencing harder times as far worse than they might really be, and deciding we are the cause of their troubles.

We baby boomers will increasingly find that in our growing dependence on young people we will be subject to their perspectives, whims and prejudices. Hopefully we can take what we are given on the chin and along with our children and our grandchildren’s generations we can all grow up and work together to face the future with whatever capacities we have.

We might hope this apology is itself a wake-up call to the younger generations that are still mostly sleepwalking into the oncoming maelstroms. In raising the alarm we might hope our humble apology will galvanise the potential in young people who are grasping the nettle of opportunities to turn problems into solutions.

We hope that this apology might lead to understanding rather than resentment of our frailty in the face of the self-organising forces of powerful change that have driven the climaxing of global industrial civilisation. Finally, the task ahead for our generation is to learn how to downsize and disown before we prepare to die, with grace, at a time of our choosing, and in a way that inspires and frees the next generations to chart a prosperous way down.

 

David Holmgren

Permaculture co-originator
Summer solstice 2018

24 Responses to The Apology: from baby boomers to the handicapped generations

  1. Ellie March 14, 2019 at 5:21 pm #

    Thank you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry. I love you.
    Ho’oponopono.

    I hold your words in deep regard. Your insight helps me to understand our predicament, yet i never truly will.

    ♡♡♡

  2. Chris Critchell March 14, 2019 at 5:38 pm #

    We have to agree to disagree.

    • Bob Neumayer March 18, 2019 at 3:42 pm #

      So Chris, what parts of David’s apology letter do you disagree with?
      I’m curious.

      • Nadejda Kuznetzova Letat March 21, 2019 at 10:38 am #

        This weighty tome brings to mind what Tzar Nicholas & his wife might have sprouted to revolutionary Russia when it was “all over Red Rover!”!!!!! Furthermore many of us less fortunate “Baby Boomers” didn’t go down the glorious path of sniffing after the ‘Great American Life” & were derided for it – “Commie Socialist Bastards” we were???? No…. I have no regrets for my marginal life … it is quite fun to recycle, recycle – very cathartic!

      • Nadejda Kuznetzova Letat March 21, 2019 at 6:50 pm #

        This weighty tome brings to mind what Tzar Nicholas & his wife might have sprouted to revolutionary Russia when it was “all over Red Rover!”!!!!! Furthermore many of us less fortunate “Baby Boomers” didn’t go down the glorious path of sniffing after the ‘Great American Life” & were derided for it – “Commie Socialist Bastards” we were???? No…. I have no regrets for my marginal life … it is quite fun to recycle, recycle – very cathartic!

        So it seems my comment was too harsh or not “politically correct”? Well ….. could have considered that when we, like present Muslim community, were experiencing protracted & deliberate isolation in rural Queensland. We were “obliged” even to drop our religious belief & being minority at time & place, was soul destruction. Babushka was of Muslim faith & spoke Turkic dialect of Altai region of Siberia. So we had no chance even if my dad had migrated today!
        I see today’s social & environmental dilemma as mindlessly self-propagated for which I can offer no “sorries” as “sorry i’nnt gonna fix it” as my little cousin used to say when slighted! To me, the present environmental situation is “Karma” – a crime that doesn’t carry a “redemption” fix-it clause!

        • Marianna Kositsina April 3, 2019 at 11:19 am #

          Totally agree. This is such an Anglocentric “letter of apology” from a tiny part of the world’s population.
          A population that hasn’t known Revolution, famine, exile, GiLAGS, Japanese or German concentration camps or Russo (substitute other cultures) phobia.

          These are the colonial powers who decimated Indigenous cultures, created genocides, whilst our homelands preserved them in any geographical expansions, then gaslighted the planet into believing they were the ones who had all the “democratic answers”.

          Those of us who have had the privilege of growing up in two cultures, one which has the legacy of multigenerational loss & trauma for a hundred years are truly blessed.

          We were the generation that created the EPA, saved the Franklin River & Frazer Is, expanded National Parks & heritage areas & fought against social injustice. Our carbon footprint was small, no aircond, no luxury or 4WD cars, local market economy, little take away anything & low disposable plastic use, so all was on track in the 1980’s.

          Bring in .com, “free trade”, Corporate Power, decimation of Unions, privatisation of public resources & mass removal of the effective right of protest by propagandising a way of life based on massive consumer consumption.

          The “5 eyes” of the world as they call themselves; UK, US, Australia, Canada & NZ are the ones who need to rather than a token apology, fund massive restitution to the rest of the planet for their orchestrated regime changes, targeted famines, exploration & relentless propaganda, a strategy that blame shifts away from their relentless & repeated atrocities all couched in the language of “apology”.

  3. Bruce Hedge March 14, 2019 at 6:24 pm #

    David, having known you longer than almost everyone else reading this, (including Su !) Alice and I always knew you were wise. This wisdom shows through in one of the most profound pieces of writing I’ve been privileged to read in many years. This piece deserves a very wide audience. Congratulations from one of those baby boomers who has tried to live slightly lighter on this finite planet because of your ideas, but who fears for our four grandchildrens’ future if we don’t do something very, very soon to stop our rampant destruction of the only planet we know. A great piece of wisdom indeed.

    • Roxy K April 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm #

      You are the master wordsmith and I agree with Bruce that this is one of the most profound pieces of writing I have been privileged to read in many years. Your ability to reflect on the past and put this into a simplified and very well written context is applaudable. My mother is born in 1955 and can relate very much to the apology. As we discuss these perspectives often, we decided to change the way we live for the benefit of my child and her grandchild. Everyday you are an inspiration for our family and the way we now live. Thank you David.

  4. Dylan March 14, 2019 at 10:28 pm #

    Hi David, every time I read something new of yours, I understand the world a little better, so thank you for sharing your research and thoughts!

    Best regards
    Dylan

    • Tim Peek March 18, 2019 at 6:15 pm #

      Beautiful and profoundly true.

  5. Mary Ragno March 14, 2019 at 11:42 pm #

    David, Your writings and work have influenced my life decisions for many years. I continue to read your words with a deep appreciation for your wise (and sobering) thoughts. Thank you.

    Mary

  6. Bob PARKER March 15, 2019 at 7:49 am #

    Profoundly insightful.

  7. Meg March 15, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

    Thank you David.

  8. Jongo Alponze March 16, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    Close to tears, needed to hear it, becoming a more popular perspective in journalists and commentators both young and old.

  9. Hollie K Adams March 18, 2019 at 10:55 am #

    There is so much packed into this apology, I feel quite overwhelmed and sad, and a bit helpless, yet there is still a thread of hope. It will take weeks or months of dissemination to fully appreciate your words, David, but I am dedicated to the task. As a permaculturist and non-consumer striver, an educator and writer, I hope to pass along your concerns to see what can be done. I believe in our youth, and in their ability to hear the important lessons.

  10. Meggs Hannes March 19, 2019 at 6:04 am #

    Thank you David. I would like to share this with our farmers’ market community. This is the conversation we need to have, keep it on the table. So much here to examine & be with. Love.

  11. tom Goodwin March 20, 2019 at 3:46 am #

    I have coined ‘Goodwin’s Theory of Relativity’ – people’s lives are mostly influenced by the relative world

  12. tom Goodwin March 20, 2019 at 3:49 am #

    oops …. relative to their lives. …. They might modify their lives a little … but probably not dramatically unless everyone does. … this is speaking to the masses, not necessarily everyone. … I am a ‘peak boomer’ born to middle class Canadian parents (Dr.), that had a pretty good life. … plus, part of the ‘boomer’ thing is the financial success a lot of our parents had. … Long story short … it is really bad timing, for this generation (the boomers) to be the ones responsible for significant change … let’s face it, boomers control most things now. Either in politics or the economy

  13. Heli March 21, 2019 at 2:00 pm #

    This is something we all need to hear and understand. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Tom Carey March 25, 2019 at 11:37 pm #

    I will not be guilt tripped by another’s lack of understanding the difference between the real problem and symptoms of those problems. The US was an isolated and protected superpower following World War 1. By the end of World War 2, along with Australia, we were one of the few countries not suffering debilitating 3rd world economy or bombed into the ground. But then came the Cold War with Russia, the Viet Nam war, and Nixon. By the 1970’s the Arab oil embargoes, inflation, and trickle-down economics necessitated that both parents work to keep a roof over their family’s head. But we were the generation that created awareness of air and water pollution, the EPA, and Woodstock. Until apathy and gross wealth inequalities are address as the real problem of plaguing our lots, blaming the symptoms will only bring us more grief and environmental destruction.

  15. David June 20, 2019 at 1:40 pm #

    I’d rather you apologise for 4 decades of trying to indoctrinate innocent people with your pseudo-intellectual nonsense. You’re so invested in your ‘post industrial’ view of the future that it’s got you backed into a corner. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to work with technology to make the world a better place. The Baby boomer generation (of which I’m not a member), contributed to vast increases in science, technology and quality of life for themselves and those who have followed them. Your claim that de-growth is the way forward is infantile in the extreme, and your general lack of understanding shows through in this cobbled together article. Please can you JUST. STOP! Aren’t you happier just gardening and living the privileged life and exceptional healthspan that society has provided you with? Stop.

  16. Isma'il Chan June 27, 2019 at 12:10 pm #

    I agree with Marianna that this is an Anglocentric apology, but think instead that that is exactly what it should be.

    To think that ancestry and ancestral representation are irrelevant to practical solving of problems (at least sustainably and inter-generationally) is to instantiate adoption of the “Anglo”/Western European colonial basic framework.

    We Chinese and Asians in general are known to be quite “racist”, I agree but not to the pejorative in this. Indigenous also know that sustainable culture must be based on standing on both the good and the bad that one’s own lineage represents and brings to the table. Running from this, failing to look at it in the squarely in the face with the help of one’s own blood, is what fuels the Western schizophrenia about real cultural and other diversity.

  17. Isma'il Chan July 3, 2019 at 3:34 pm #

    In resonance perhaps with this essay, I offer a poem. It’s not necessarily aimed at the Boomer generations, there’s many other places the shoes fit, but it certainly does fit here quite well I think.

    孝 (Filial Piety)

    Your Traditionalism is modern
    Your spirituality is materialistic and inflationary
    Your authority lacks authority
    Your benevolence hides resentment and self hatred

    your capacity to listen
    past walled words
    and manipulated Quantities
    calls for a hearing aid.

    Your lust for the Many betrays the One
    Your impatience for the One obliterates the Many
    What you move to protect you destroy
    Your cosmopolitanism is colonial

    you broke
    from the ways of your ancestors
    and deny responsibility
    for the disorientation of your descendants.

    I see your pain and seek not to inflame;
    Please remember the respect for which you long
    Is what Heaven and you both know
    Is thus far not deserved

    embrace this and be finally free
    to heal the wounds;
    our heartfelt compassion for your journey
    now please stand down.

  18. Rob September 16, 2019 at 9:46 am #

    My first response to this is, “David, it’s not your fault!” You have done more than many, if not most, to be part of the solution for decades. However, there is a powerful hook in this message, which let’s face it, is not likely to be forthcoming from any other source. And like the “Kevin ’07” one before, it is likely to generate mixed feelings and a multitude of reactions. It has.

    Personally, this is the apology I would have liked to receive from my forebears, some of whom are aware of the massive issues facing us, but would probably stop short of assuming responsibility for them. And David meets the criteria for making a good apology – thoroughly understanding the impact on the other and caring about those outside his immediate circle (self, family, friends, his generation and the next).

    The feedback about David’s demographic (white, male, Western, etc.) I cannot support for the following reasons: 1) Once we’re born, our demographic is pretty hard to change, but each of us has to do our best with the life we’re given; 2) How would any of us like to feel under attack based on our own demographic, especially while undertaking work of a positive nature; 3) Which of us truly has the right to proclaim what any one else can/cannot do/say/think/feel/believe based on that person’s demographic alone? 4) We are basically the same under the skin – there is a level of humanity at which demographic ceases to make any difference, as with compassion, respect and other matters of the heart/soul.

    And why not David to make this apology – does any one know what fraction of the world’s so-called “wealth”, real-estate, corporations, small businesses, not mention intellectual property is owned by the Boomers? It will be interesting to see how this ownership changes hands and re-distributes itself once the wave has passed.

    Of my generation (late 60’s) it has been said we are the ones who willingly or otherwise take on the work of tidying up the messes and excesses of the past. In my own observation, most of us are at least as bogged down in the minutiae of daily life/survival and thriving issues as any one else. Some bright lights may choose to address environmental issues through their art, music and even spiritual pursuits (being in the world but not of it!). Some have taken on the permaculture mantle/torch and worn and carried it to the best of their ability.

    Looking at pre-Boomers, some of those bear responsibility for the plastic/technocratic world of today through their back-room machinations and corporate scheming. Whilst others of their time were busy kow-towing to the authorities of the military-industrial complex to ensure their own and their family’s survival. And on it goes..

    Later generations – whom I have great hope for – have inherited something of a “fool’s paradise” and will have to work extra hard to wake from a slumber of complacency. This induced by widespread use of “devices”, chemical and hormonal loading in our food, plus the appearance of plenty (if not the actual leisure time that was supposed to accompany it), apparent safety (for some Western, developed, often English-speaking countries), nations that can absorb SOME migration from war-torn places. These generation (after mine) may be the ones who decide not to have as many offspring, to improve their own prospects and quality of life, incidentally easing our planet’s population issues.. We talk of “Peak Oil” why not “Peak Population” or “Peak Population Growth”.

    So perhaps this was the apology “we had to have” – acknowledging the extent of our (human) inattention to global mayhem and realising that some of our combined actions have allowed it to progress further than it should have, then declaring that, yes, one specific human being in fact did play a part in the unfolding catastrophe, not foreseeing the impact on others. While some might argue that David’s taking it upon himself constitutes hubris of unimaginable proportions, or belies an inflated sense of self-importance, what if that’s not the case. Then this apology is as genuine as they come. I choose to accept the latter proposition – I believe you, David. Apology accepted.

Leave a Reply