Earlier this month, I received this email from reader Gene Steele: “I would like to submit an article regarding the need for the older generations to step up and teach the youth about the damaged earth that we created for them with disposable plastics and plastic bags and the efforts of many senior citizens to reverse the damage done.” Well, I gladly accepted the offer and below is the article that was submitted. Enjoy!
My name is Gene Steele, I live in Oakland, Ca. and I want to change the world. I was born in 1945 and have lived through several horrific wars and the ever present threat of man’s self destruction through global nuclear conflict. Yet, I have never felt so vulnerable as I have since becoming aware of the measure of damage that has been done to our planet, mainly by those of my generation. This is my letter to the young people so that they may not make the same mistakes my generation made.
When I was growing up there was no such thing as recycling, everything went into the same garbage can and got hauled off to the same landfill. Television sets, furniture, food waste, every kind of household item you can think of, all thrown into one big heap at the dump. I honestly think we thought that stuff thrown away at the dump was somehow absorbed into the earth. I can remember being shocked to learn that twinkies were still found to be intact a few years after being discarded. Who knew that twinkies weren’tt the only things still unchanged and sitting in landfills around the globe.
In my adult years came the arrival of the most innovative substance known to man – plastic. Plastic changed life as we had known it. Toys were made differently, carmakers began using it in their designs, it changed the way we packaged our food, there are so many ways that plastic changed peoples lives I could be writing forever. Even now, plastic continues to be utilized in the manufacture of everyday items.
Now that I am retired and have more time to pay attention to things other than making a living and supporting my family, I began to hear more and more about global warming and climate change. The more I listened, the worse it got. Oceans rising, glaciers melting, marine life and sea mammals literally swimming in garbage, mostly plastics; everything from hard bottle type plastic that never breaks down to plastic bags which break down into smaller pieces that birds, sea mammals and fish ingest and have been found in the stomach and tissue of these same creatures.
Plastic is not a substance that was meant to be introduced into the digestive system of any living thing. Once taken in it wreaks havoc. If it gets that far, sea birds and mammals usually choke to death trying to swallow it mistakenly thinking it is food. The very thought of it breaks my heart.
The one thing that keeps me motivated in this fight to reclaim our planet is the fact that it is not too late. We as seniors and our youth should unite to get the middle generation (our sons and daughters and your moms and dads) to work harder to enact laws that regulate manufacturers and consumers to develop alternative methods, greener, safer ways of accomplishing things without plastic or at the very least with the reduce, reuse, recycle credo becoming a plastic industry commitment.
This is my plea to other seniors to join in the fight. Utilize the free time you now have to give back to your community. Start a youth campaign against global warming, or give a talk at your local elementary school teaching the reduce, reuse, recycle credo. You will be doing yourself and the generations to come a great service.
Gene Steele is a noted Oakland, Ca. inventor and environmentalist and creator of the green bagman shopper, the high quality reusable shopping and/utility bag.