Over the years I have been pulled into conversations where the above is so apparent and relative. This is one reason why I try to maintain my Going True Green blogs with various central themes and have them connect one way or another. I also have kept notes and thoughts, so now with the above situation stated, I will combine different examples and stories into one conglomerate blog to make my point. I will use a visit with my Aunt, who represents our old folks very stalwartly. She is 102 with a walker, but she still has all her faculties.
We were sitting together and I was getting ready to leave after having some time sharing stories and memories. There were two Pignoli cookies left over from the five I brought to share with my aunt. (Yes, these are expensive cookies, thus only five.) Nevertheless, my aunt saw one of the young ladies that works at her assisted living and asked her for a small plastic bag to put the two cookies in. She wanted to take them up to her room. I had already recycled the cardboard box the cookies came in and the remaining two were on a small cardboard circle that acted like a tray.
After a few minutes, the young lady came back with a small brown paper lunch bag and said, “I brought you a paper bag instead of a plastic bag.”
“Oh, I prefer a paper bag. Thank you,” my aunt replied.
“Well I wished you preferred paper bags when you were younger, perhaps then my generation wouldn’t have environment problems that will destroy the world in ten years,” the employee snapped back.
“Wow,” I said and immediately saw my aunt put her hand up toward me in a jester that she didn’t need my help.
“Can you imagine?” My aunt said softly and then as if someone handed her a microphone, she started her verbal dissertation. “When I was young we only used paper bags. There were no plastic bags at all and we reused all our paper over and over. We made and protected our school text books with left-over paper bags from the grocery store. We lined our kitchen garbage pail with them, we made hats to play with and made signs on the brown paper for selling lemonade at the wooden stand our fathers made for us. We even reused newspaper to wrapped fish in at the fish market and protect things being mailed. We didn’t have or use your plastic bubble wrap.
“When I was young, we all had milk delivered to us every few mornings in glass bottles. Bottles that were returned, washed, and reused over and over. We really recycled all glass bottles, because they all went back to be washed and refilled. Soda, beer and…
“And we never purchase water in plastic bottles! We were blessed with clean water coming out of a fountain or the faucet in our kitchen for a fraction of the cost. Much better than what my grandmother did every day when she carried several heavy clay pots to the town well in order to fill them with that day’s water supply for her family.
“I walked everywhere or took the trolley and then a bus after that replaced the trolley. We didn’t have a car. And when we did, we still walked to anywhere within five miles. Stairs, oh yes, stairs. No such thing as escalators in every building. Do not think… I mean, I am thankful for elevators now, because with my walker I can no longer take stairs.”
“But you took stairs until you needed that walker at 98 years old!” I quickly injected. “Tell her how you helped take care of the whole family as the oldest after your father died while he helped with the World War Two effort state side.”
“Oh yes, Pop. Pop was killed loading a supply ship bound to Europe for our troops. They said it was an accident. Mom needed my help with my four younger brothers. Two already in the military, the army and Airforce. One more to join the Navy when he turned 18 within two years. Thank God all my brothers came home, but many other boys we knew… I never married, so I helped mom and the family all I could.”
“My aunt is being modest. She was a professional woman, despite not having any chance to go to high school. She earned the money that helped to support the family. My grandmother didn’t have a paying job…” I stopped talking when my aunt looked at me and laughed a little.
“There was no such thing as a professional woman back then.”
“True,” I replied.
“A man would have your job right here and now, back in those years." My aunt said to the young lady. "You would be getting married or as in my case helping the war effort.” My aunt turned in her seat, and I now knew she was going to let everything fly.
“As far as my generation, causing your generation’s problems… Well, I am thankful for elevators, because with my walker I can no longer take stairs. I took stairs, I washed cloth diapers to be reused over and over. No plastic throw-away diapers. The sun dried our clothes on a clothes line, no electrical powered drying machine.”
“That is real solar energy,” I injected.
“William, let me speak. Don’t interrupt… I took the stairs all the time, but I am thankful for elevators, because with my walker I can no longer take stairs. Look at all these Television sets here. We had one Television for the whole family and that was only after I purchased, with my money, RCA’s first entertainment center with color TV, stereo, record player, and radio in 1960. If you wanted to see a big screen feature, we went to the movie theaters that had air conditioned environments. We didn’t have our own air conditioner in every room throughout the apartment. We used no electricity when mixing food like flour or eggs, we mixed with our hand powered kitchen tools. We sharpened pencils by hand, we would wind-up our alarm clocks, we opened food cans with a can opener by hand, we swept the floors and carpets by hand, we planted gardens anywhere we could, we raked up leaves and composted them instead of stuffing them into plastic bags, we added up numbers on paper, not on a computer, we washed dishes by hand, we read books by the window on a Sunday afternoon, we went around the house shutting lights off and opening curtains, we washed every night with the bowl by the sink and took a bath twice or three times a week, we donated what we no longer needed to the church, we knew the difference between what we needed and what we wanted, we took lunch with us to work and school in a reusable metal lunch box, never used a zip-lock plastic bag, we ate together, we prayed together and we had time, valuable time, together. I’m 102, those valuable times are just memories for me now. I am blessed to have them.”
Before walking away, the young girl said with a tear in her eye, “I am sorry. I didn’t know.”
As for me, I have little patience for elitist people who want to scare our kids with lies through the process of omission. Sending kids around the world to scream in fear instead of realizing all that has been done to help make a difference. Yes, I am acutely aware about how generations before polluted our waterways and air, but I am also aware of what each generation has done to fix environmental damage and problems. Throughout my generation I witnessed massive improvements and solutions implemented. Along with current efforts, we are doing seriously better than the way pollution was in the 1950s and 60s. Too many of today’s generation fail to realize all that has changed and what has been fixed. Just believing topics like electric cars are the solution, when they are just a transition at best, is proof that just googling knowledge - Does Not Work. Just believing what is spoken and not realizing the damage to people and our environment with the use of electric car fleets everywhere. Not knowing the facts behind Hydrogen Fuel Cells, so we do not get suckered into monthly bills when the solution can be Free to the world. Instead of being happy about facts and news that are positive, they blame others and refuse to realize that they didn’t do their homework and were duped.
If you have not read the following as of yet, then this is homework for reading this Thanksgiving:
To my aunt, I say thank you! Thank you for all you didn’t do to hurt the environment and thank you for being part of my equation that had me go out around the world always learning, but also to teach, educate, and make a difference.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and peace to all as we know the real truths.
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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