Calling out Grandma & Grandpa

First, let’s just get it out of the way. My bad for not writing more. I knew it had been a while, but when I logged in and saw October 27 was my last post I admit I’m a bit embarrassed. So, mea culpa with no decent excuses.

As many know, I’m huge fan of Seth Godin. Two of his recent posts, “But that’s not what I meant” and “What posterity has done for us” remind me, however, that there is still a need for writing and speaking out. And so, I’m back and pointing my finger at you, grandparents.

Back when I had a mother in law, one of her favorite phrases was to shake her head in semi-mock disbelief at whatever was going on and say “It’s not a world that I ever made”. At the time I thought it a comic phrase, but now I recognize as something different. It’s a way to shrug off responsibility, because, in truth, it IS a world that you all made. And now I see most of you trying to pass the buck. But I’m calling you out. Time to own up, take some responsibility and start fixing things.

Back in the day, there was smoking and it was a thing. Everyone did it, all the time. Even doctors said it was OK, for a while. And then, slowly, so very slowly, things began to change. In the early 1950s reports started to emerge that smoking was linked to lung cancer. But it wasn’t until 1964 that The Surgeon General issued the first governmental warning about smoking and lung cancer. And thus began decades of “debate” over the merits of smoking. But you’re all old enough to remember that, when the truth finally came out, there really wasn’t much of a debate. It was a bunch of entrenched, old money tobacco companies and executives trying to preserve their income. And they did it not by giving you facts, but by trying to introduce doubt about the facts that existed. “Doubt is our product” as the infamous memo said. And, for quite a while, it worked. It took 24 years to get cigarettes banned on airplanes and 34 years before the huge tobacco settlement that we all remember. While smoking is still a thing, it’s now a small thing and because we all recognize that it’s incredibly bad for you, we tax the hell out of it to offset the costs to the rest of us.

So what’s that got to do with anything? It should be obvious, but obviously it’s not. There are 3 developing crises that are all linked together; the rise of chronic diseases (like diabetes), obesity, and global climate change. And, like the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, the evidence is out there and mounting that these are real, are costly, are devastating, and threaten not just our health and well being, but our very planet. And just like in the 50’s and 60’s, the lobbyists for big agriculture, big food, and oil are engaged in a giant game of obfuscation and denial. And you, senior citizens, have done nothing. You are supposed to be our cultural memory. You are supposed to be our old and wise companions that help steer us away from mistakes we’ve made in the past. And you’re supposed to be cantankerous enough to tell it like it is.

As Seth Godin said:

I’ve never met anyone who honestly felt that they would have been better off living at the beginning of any century other than this one.

And our job is to build the foundations necessary for our great grandchildren to feel the same way about the world they’re born in.

It’s only fair, isn’t it?

And yet, your silence is deafening and damning. For all of the news that your generation watches and all of the newspapers that you read, are you really not learning anything? Let me review just a couple of facts. These are not opinions (aka the “alternative facts” our President favors), but peer-reviewed, data driven facts. (By the way, for you less internet savvy readers, anything blue and underlined can be “clicked” on to go to the source).

So, to my senior citizen readers, remember when McDonald’s was first a big thing? What did you eat there? A hamburger and fries with a drink was a meal. Now it’s called a Happy Meal and it’s for children and they get a plastic toy with it. You’ve undoubtedly bought one for someone. Under your watch and with your participation, the consumption of meat, including poultry and seafood, has risen dramatically over the last 60 years. Not surprisingly, given what we know now, so has the obesity rate, the diabetes rate, the cancer rate, the inflammatory disease rate, and all of the chronic diseases we know so well. And, in large part due to the ever increasing needs to supply (at great profit) all of that meat, dairy and eggs to you, we’re raising the temperature of our planet. The polar ice caps are melting. The giant glaciers on Greenland are melting. Glacier National Park has almost no glaciers. The (at the time) mythical “Northwest Passage” that Henry Hudson so diligently sought, but could never find (i.e. the waterway over Canada to link the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans) is now a reality, at least in the summer months.

Yes, there are “doubts” about all of these things. But if you spend just a few moments digging, you’ll find that available data doesn’t create any doubt, it’s just people creating doubt. Because doubt is their product. And it sells. And it makes such an awful lot of money.

I can already hear my father moaning that The Wall Street Journal says that Climate Change is just a computer model and you can make computer models tell you whatever you want. <insert eye roll here>. That is the classic argument of the doubt creators. Here’s a lovely short YouTube video of the guy who makes “the satellite temperature” data sets. You know, the data that people like Ted Cruz love to say are “the best data we’ve got” and “they don’t show warming”. And in the video, the man who makes the graphs that Mr. Cruz uses, will tell you that: 1) the data is created by using a model (apparently if the model tells you what you want to hear it’s OK, but if it tells you what you don’t want to hear it’s not OK), 2) the data is incorrectly used and 3) the data is just one bit of information in an ocean of information that all point to the same thing.

So, grandparents, what do I want you to do? Quit passing the buck. Be open to learning something new (and perhaps complicated) because you have the time to do so. And then teach your children, your grandchildren, and your great grandchildren how to avoid the mistakes made in the past. How to recognize the charlatans and merchants of doubt for what they are. Just get involved and do your part. I believe you have much to teach and much to give.