Saturday, 24 September 2011


Albert is my cousin, the youngest son of my dad's older brother Albert (known as Uncle Al), but a significant age difference was between us. So when I was up north in Illinois around the age of 10 or so, visiting my Uncle Al and Aunt Gertrude (you couldn't make this stuff up) with my dad, Albert would sometimes drop by to say hi.

This one visit sticks out, and I've only just recalled it within the past year or so. But I remember my dad and Albert talking about the world's state of affairs, as men of a certain age do, talking with some authority that they somehow are steering the world away from catastrophe with every sentence. I was sitting a few feet away, at the dining room table, drawing freehand interpretations of works in Al and Gertrude's huge book of Leonardo da Vinci. I loved that book. At any rate, at one point Albert said something that caught my attention, I can't remember what, but I do remember that I looked up from my drawing and asked him what he meant.

He was standing by the table, and he turned to me, put his hands on the table, and shaking his head ever so slightly in a resigned way, he looked me square in the eyes and told me that the world wouldn't last another 50 years at the rate we were going. I remember being shocked and scared. What did he mean? The words he used escape me, but it was clear he was talking about pollution, which was a big deal in the 80s, and also excessive use of the earth's resources. How fast the world would use available resources has always been to debate. People in the 80s, or before even, thought they'd be gone by 2000. That was wrong, obviously, but on the grand scale of things, not completely off the mark. We're closing in on something called "Peak Everything", where demand of all resources exceeds supply (Peak Everything does though fall under the current paradigm, and only worries me insomuch that we don't collectively stage a revolution and change everything about the way we do things, creating a new paradigm, which I think we just might will).

I've seen Albert many times since, latest at my dad's funeral in 2001. He'd gotten married, and had a kid since that episode I mentioned. But the weird thing, looking back, is that he hadn't changed anything. He flew in to the funeral, showed off his new wife and her expensive purse and shoes, bragged about his latest automobile purchase, you know, just went along with the business as usual model. So despite him prophesying the end of all things because of the way we do things, he does nothing, save adding to the problem, and even having a kid who will be alive when it all happens.

I'd love to retrospectively take it all with a grain of salt. Partially because Albert wasn't probably any more well-read on the subject than my dad, gleaning only from what mass media fed him, possibly drawing the odd conclusion from it all once in a blue moon. But at the same time, it really pisses me off that an adult, arguably a role model for the generation after him, shows so little interest and action in changing "The Way Things Are". And despite him being a harbinger of things to come himself.

As I mentioned, I was around 10 at the time. Albert gave us another 50 years. I'm 33 now. That leaves around 27 years left, according to him. And depending on how you look at it, that's not quite wrong. I'll leave you to go google about ice caps melting, peak oil, etc., but we're hardly going to enjoy our lifestyles as they are now for another 27 years before things go awry.

Admittedly, I haven't seen Albert since 2001, so I don't know if he's changed his lifestyle accordingly, or does anything to actively change things aside from that. But I'm reaching the conclusion that if you identify a glitch between the way you live your life, and the way your own life is supported by our ecosystems, I strongly suggest you heed that conclusion, instead of merely identifying it.

In conclusion, I'm angry at an entire generation for having latently harbored the knowledge that is scaring the wits out of my generation and the ones after this. I'm angry for the inaction of thousands, millions even. I think life was too comfortable for them to question, or change. And those who did were probably just deemed hippie dissidents. I'm angry that my kids are footing the ultimate bill for a party they're not going to enjoy. I'm not just scared of the future. I'm angry about it.

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