1 EAGLETON NOTES: How Green Was My Youth

.

.

Monday, 1 October 2012

How Green Was My Youth

A friend emailed me this today.  I hadn't seen it before and as I read it I suddenly realised how much things had changed during my life-time from being relatively green in our consumption habits to being very far from it.


Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags in future because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."

The cashier responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then; we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 2200 watts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.
But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

It makes you think......

15 comments:

  1. It mentioned handerkerchief sized screen on the TV.
    You and I still use handkerchiefs. We don't reach for a paper tissue every time we need to wipe our nose or dry our eyes. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In that regard we do our tiny bit CJ.

      Delete
  2. I still do a lot of those things - I don't drive, I drink tap water all the time, I don't own a tumble dryer, I take my own bags when I go shopping, and wrap delicate things up in old newspapers when sending them by mail.
    On the other hand, I am guilty of pushing the vacuum cleaner around at least once a week and running my washing machine twice a week - plus daily use of not one, but TWO computers (business and private), and I make my living by means of the telephone. Does that make me half-green at least?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would think that you are a reasonably green person in all sorts of ways Meike. The problem is that none of the developed and developing nations are green at all. We are using the earth's resources at an astonishing rate.

      Delete
  3. I too do all of these things, but like Meike am guilty of electricity use.

    However I'm afraid I do still agree with the cashier - maybe not at the level of the individual, but there's abundant evidence to support the fact that the damage to the environment and ozone began as far back as the industrial revolution and my generation is frustrated and saddened that we can do so little to reverse it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Helen, you and Ian make a very conscious effort to be green. Unfortunately I think that the problem goes way beyond what the individual can do - excluding the adage that every journey begins with the first step. We have been depleting the earth's resources ever since we started using them and now that the developed nations have wealth, surprise surprise, everyone else wants it too. We will never give up our wealth voluntarily and they will never give up the quest voluntarily. It is a most depressing scenario. Obviously at some time the whole situation will implode. Until then the throw-away society (which this generation, I would suggest, is as guilty or perhaps even more guilty than the past generations) will continue and multiply and the voices of logic and reason will disappear as tears in rain.

      Delete
  4. Hard to turn development back, isn't it. I usually do bring my own bags for grocery shopping, though - and always did. Also sort garbage to recycling, drink more tap water than anything else, and I don't have a car, or even my own washing machine. Any individual efforts always seem like just a drop in the sea in the bigger perspective, and yet they're hopefully not totally meaningless...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would like to think that I'm fairly responsible too Monica and recycle and compost and so on but the reality if I really sit down and think about it is not as I would wish: I eat meat (now) which is a very inefficient use of the world's resources; I live in a house big enough for a family and I keep it heated to my comfort level; I have five televisions because I like to be able to watch TV where it is convenient to me or my guests even though I don't watch TV very often; I have more electronic, electric and computer gadgetry in the house than my parents used in their entire lifetime and when an item breaks dow it usually has to be replaced because it can't be repaired; I live in two countries duplicating many things that I 'need' in life and I have clocked up more air miles in my life than most private travellers do. I could go on and on but I would depress myself. The truth is that most of us in the western or 'developed' world live lives of unashamed luxury even though we don't think of it that way. We compare ourselves to the super-rich whereas we should, perhaps, be comparing ourselves with the sweat-shop labourer in a developing country or a starving population in Africa. But that's far too uncomfortable for us.

      Delete
    2. Well, you can have some of my "share" of airmiles, I have not been using many of those! (I've been on an airplane seven times in my life, and the last time was in 1978 or 79... No return flight that time because I took the train back!) I do get your point; there are really HUGE differences across the world between poor and rich; and yet it is very hard to go against the consumer pattern in our immediate context.

      Delete
  5. An excellent post, GB! I was only discussing today the fact that when anything goes wrong, my kids' solution (and they were not spoilt when young) is "buy a new one". Too often, they're right, as things aren't made to last, and getting something fixed often costs more than replacing it. So its not always the consumers' fault. As for buying water...... They'll be selling bottled air next.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Frances. A problem is that in our search for cheap goods we have ruled out the option of making many things in a way that they can be repaired. Even cars are now so complicated that if, for example, the ABS braking system were to fail on my car it would probably cost far more than the car is now worth even though I still consider my 8 year old car to be 'new' and it has at least another 100,000 miles left in it.

      Bottled air! Now there's a really good idea. If I were cycling in the vehicle-polluted air of a city I'd love some fresh Hebridean air to breathe. Hmmm. How do I go about this one.....?

      Delete
  6. Reading this email again (it circulates every so often), makes me think of all the ways that the older generation were "green", but did not know it as that....we just conserved and reused and fixed items.
    Here the younger generation hail the "mash up and buy back" imported culture...I can't even begin to count the amount of cell phones my daughter has had over the years, as compared to my four.
    I was taught to care what I have, and to make use of everything that could be put to good use.
    I too filter my tap water, and I do not own nor want to own a clothes dryer or dishwasher.
    As an aside, I am a believer in preserving our planet. Even the extremely HOTTTT days that we have been experiencing is as a result of the depleted ozone layer....alas we have broken our planet....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Virginia, It's the sort of email that does the rounds on FB and so on but I just hadn't seen it before. Many people I know drink bottled water and even more filter it. I, too, am lucky to live in a place with good wholesome water from the tap. As I've said in response to previous comments I'd love to think that I'm a reasonable user of resources but the reality for most people in this society is that we are not.

      Delete
  7. brilliantly written and a great reminder! So we were green back in the "olden" days, it just wasn't called that. I get laughed at because I reuse any plastic ware that comes my way; I use it till it's broken. I'm like Dawn Treader, I recycle. I did it before our city finally decided to "Go Blue" (blue bags hold only recyclables) My husband and I would haul our stuff to bins located around our city.
    In fact when I taught, I had a recycle unit for science; it fit well in Religion because of stewardship. One mother told me that when she went to buy paper towels at the grocery, her daughter started crying. I use rags instead of paper towels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I have gleaned from your blog, Norma, you live a more green life than many of us.

      Delete