A Letter From A Senior Citizen To Younger People…


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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.

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  1. Gene, my name is Adam Shake, and I take my hat off to you Sir. I am also deeply involved in trying to make a better future for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, through environmentalism.

    All too often, I find that people of your generation (and even mine) are afraid to change. We become complacement in our lives and we see any type of change as a threat to our lifestyles and freedoms. It is refreshing to hear your words and feel your commitment.

    With your (and Dave’s) permission, I would also like to post your letter on one of our websites, Twilight Earth.

    I’ll speak to Dave personally and I would like to thank you for your commitment.

    Adam Shake

  2. Dear Mr Steele,
    I’d like to echo Adam Shake’s words of thanks, as well as his request to put your letter up on our website, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

    Stopping the current level of environmental destruction and raising future generations who incorporate sustainable living practices requires everyone to get involved and get active.
    Thank you again,
    Sue Rocca

  3. While I know that fixing our planet is something that people of every generation are interested in, it’s really refreshing to hear from someone like Gene.

    Maybe it’s just that the major medium of communication (the internet) is a disconnect between our generations, but sometimes it feels like the senior population is quite silent on this topic.

    As Gene obviously understands, this is not just a young man’s fight. This is EVERYONE’s problem to fix.

    I think I’ll forward this post to my grandparents, but who knows the next time they’ll check their email. 🙂

  4. Actually, Lee – the oceans are a larger sink for Co2 and because they are so vast also where we get the majority of our oxygen. It’s about more then planting trees – we also need to reduce the amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) we emit. However, agreed planting tree is an easy, good start.

  5. Thanks for re-posting this, i missed it first time around – only recently learnt to subscribe by RSS! I was born, in England, in 1947, into a less wealthy society, and , sadly , we aspired to the same wealthy & comfortable lifestyle as Americans had. I grew up with a ‘waste not want not’ ethos, but couldn’t avoid the disposable society – as they say ‘When America sneezes, Europe catches a cold’ and we’ve caught the same mindless, consumer focused idea of life.
    I am inspired by the young bloggers I read, it gives me great hope, but we ALL need to be getting on this particular bandwagon and becoming evangelists for the planet.

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