Open letter to Greta Thunberg
& other young people who believe older generations
murdered Mother Earth
and never talk about climate crisis
Greta, I admire you. I love you. I am thankful you came along to inspire people to work hard to save Mother Earth, to clean up streams, oceans and air. Like you, I have autism. But my condition was not discovered until I was 67 years old. I knew something was different about me. I always preferred trees and books to people. I like being alone. I have read both of your books, which my teacher friend gave to me. I agree with 99% of everything you say in your books and your lectures. I went to the rally you led in Denver. Hooray for Great Greta!! However, you keep saying “hardly anyone talks about the climate crisis” and that “no one is doing anything about this.”
Please know that not all “old people” polluted this Earth. For example, my parents were fierce environmentalists in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and onward. They never read newspapers without bundling them up, tying the bundles with string and returning them to pulp plants. The pulp went back to making new newspapers, tablets for schools & other paper products. In modern times, they put their newspapers and other items into recycling bins.
My family hiked all over America, in parts of Mexico and Canada. My father’s job as an explorer/cartographer required him to climb mountains, scout streams/coastlines and clamber around in swamps. (There is a mountain and a glacier in Antarctica named after my father–William C. Elder–he was the first person to climb up those geological formations.)
Mom and us kids often went hiking with him when school was out. We helped carry Dad’s telerometer and other equipment he used for making maps the old fashioned way, without math. My parents taught us always to carry every tiny bit of trash/garbage out of the wilderness with us. My parents used only paper bags and waxed paper for our lunches. Everyone in the 1930s/40s/50s/early 60s did this. We did not have plastic in those days.
Our parents taught us kids about safe use of fire and how to use the bathroom property in the wildness–far from water sources so as not to pollute (and burying the waste). It was drilled into us kids Never to foul Mother Nature. We were taught to respect all wild animals and coexist with them.
Dad and Mom taught us survival in deserts, forests and other terrains (in case we got lost, we could eat cacti—after peeling off the prickly top layer—for moisture/sustenance in deserts; which mushrooms and berries were safe to eat; how to follow creeks to civilization; how to read moss on trees, follow Polaris and so forth.) Our lives in national parks, state parks and other Nature locations gave us all a great love for Mother Earth.
My father taught us the “navy shower.” Turn on the shower, get wet. Turn water off. Soap up. Shower off. The entire effort takes less than five minutes. Dad demanded we take only cold showers in Spring and Summer and warm Fall days. We were allowed baths or showers once a week until age 11. We had to wash with washcloths in the sink on non-bath/shower days. Or having fun with the outdoor hose. When we lived in tents or cabins without running water, we swam in creeks, rivers and the sea. That was our “bath” as children. My sister came to hate this. So did my mother. But I was the quintessential “dirty hippy!” Although no boy I dated ever complained. Ha!
Every item of clothing we outgrew was handed down in the family or given to poor people. We did not have much money until my father was promoted when I was 13 years old. But years of frugal living made their mark and I still shop at thrift stores. My mother made most of our clothing. My father’s shoes lasted forever. When he died at nearly 90 years old, he had the same boots he’d been wearing since age 40. We were taught to take care of our shoes, since “money doesn’t grow on trees.”
My mother grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. Her family were dirt poor. They canned vegetables and fruits, stored potatoes in the cellar and cooked in an iron pot for a huge group of relatives and ranch hands. My father grew up in Georgia. He was poorer than my Mom. Dad swept dirt yards for 10 cents a day to help support his family when his father died. My father was ten years old when his Dad passed away from pneumonia. My father wore the same overalls from age 10-15. He scrubbed them every night by hand in a tub. He wore the same shoes for six years, cutting the instep to allow his feet room when they grew. He put himself through college to escape poverty but he never lost his extreme frugality.
Mom became a registered nurse. She was the youngest of eight children. She taught herself to sew because my parents could not afford to buy new clothing. She became a gifted designer/seamstress. She took us with her whenever she delivered food baskets to poverty stricken people in Appalachia and other areas of America.
My sister, at age 11, joined a group that fought hard to save Burling Tract. This was a stretch of land in McLean, Virginia of thousands of acres. That area is still forest. It did not fall to developers who wanted to build giant homes for wealthy people there.
My sister, our father and I joined a group that helped organize the first Earth Day in the Washington, D.C. area. Thousands, perhaps millions of people did this work all over the world This took a Lot of organizing, talking to people, handing out fliers. Then we worked hard, bundling up newspapers, sorting through trash dropped off (into piles for recycling). It was exhausting but we felt really good about it. It was 1970 and we had hope for the future.
From the time my brother, sister and I were toddlers in the 1950s, we would pick up trash from forests, rivers, streams and the ocean. One of our favorite words was “help.” We would put garbage into paper bags and our parents would bury it so it would rot. Or they would take it to manufacturers for a rebate. Back then, there was no plastic or styrofoam. Everything was in glass, paper, wood and cardboard. So it was easy to dispose of trash responsibly.
As teenagers, we joined others, working to clean up the Potomac River. People were doing the same thing all over America, rescuing rivers that were on fire with chemicals. We marched for Mother Earth (and against war). We talked to government officials, demanding they pass laws to clean up the environment and stop corporations from dumping chemicals into rivers and the ocean. My brother, sister, my husband and I planted trees wherever we lived. We give trees and flower bulbs as gifts to friends and family, so they can enjoy living plants and the oxygen they produce.
My brother and I, as little kids, wanted to be “Johnny Appleseed.” We would eat apples from orchards. Then we would plant the seeds with cores to benefit “the future.” We got our school mates to help us do this.
This is not just my family/friends. Hundreds of thousands of families in the 30s/40s/50s and beyond lived and continue to live this way.
My husband and I and many of our friends/theater/art/poetry-world acquaintances chose to have no children. ZPG. Zero Population Growth was a popular trend when we were in high school and college. Universal Birth control could help stem the tide of damage to this earth. Too many people crowd into certain areas of each nation. We ruin habitats of animals, birds and forests. I do not feel bereft for having no children. I taught school and enjoyed all those children/teenagers. I have nieces and nephews I love. But I wish Everyone would choose to use birth control and not have more than one or two children per family. One would be ideal. It would help if young couples could be free from the question “When are you going to start having babies?” This expectation has overpopulated the world. We learned in the 5th grade about Thomas Malthus’s predictions. Everyone who went up to the 5th grade in the U.S. knows that overpopulation has ruined the world. But this can be reversed with education about birth control. If governments would provide birth control products to men and women, free clinics to dispense and educate about birth control, the population problem would improve greatly.
We have friends who do not buy new furniture. They make their own. One of my best friends and her husband take in unwanted/neglected/abused animals (wild and domesticated creatures). They nurse these animals back to health. They pay for veterinarian care. They feed them, give them clean water and a cozy, loving home. They do not have much money to do this. Their love of creatures and the love those animals give them is payment enough. They have been doing this for over thirty years. My husband and I send them money to help the animals whenever we can.
I read about a man in India who has planted Millions of trees, in an effort to save Mother Earth.
Others do the same good deeds all over the world.
So do not give up. There is hope.
Many people buy new clothes and shoes every school year or season. They see cars, clothing, TV sets and computers as “throw-aways.” Get new, toss the old. Tennis shoes are a status symbol. So some folks buy the latest hip tennis shoes and toss old ones. These pile up in garbage dumps and end up in the sea. New bed-clothes, comforters, sheets are bought and the old ones are tossed. Not everyone does this, thankfully. Many people donate to Goodwill or other thrift shops and this benefits the environment and people like my husband and I who cannot afford (nor do we want) to buy new things. You can get clothing, books, DVDs, shoes, lamps, electronic devices at Goodwill and other thrift shops. It is fun looking and buying for great deals. We notice parents telling their kids “Get five items of clothing and three toys! We can afford it!” at thrift stores. The kids are excited to be getting “new” things. Everyone benefits.
If corporations quit producing plastic items and quit wrapping items in plastic (using glass, cardboard instead) Mother Earth would benefit greatly. Boulder, Colorado has a ban on plastic bags. So do many cities all over the world. People are using cloth bags, just like in the old days.
However, it is not possible for private citizens to save Mother Earth on their own. Using cloth bags is a drop in the bucket. Corporations and billionaire CEOs must do the biggest part of this work. Corporations must stop relying on oil and gas to power factories. They must use solar, water, wind, geyser and other energies. Perhaps nuclear but I am not educated enough about that to voice an opinion. Car manufacturers must switch engines from gas-powered to solar and electric. Or some other technology I do not know about. I trust in scientists. Young scientific minded people are making inventions which help clean up the ocean. So I have hope.
We live near Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley Steamer car was invented here. Steam engines were good enough for people in the early part of the 20th Century. Why not now? Why must people go 40 mph or faster? Slowing life down would benefit our environment and our mental health! Bicycles are great but cars are an American fact of life. So if we could convert to steam engines, that would be amazing. No gas/oil/coal electricity!
Electric companies must stop using coal and gas. This is urgent.
CEOs of corporations whose products pollute must stop using coal. For example, in manufacturing, large amounts of machinery and chemicals are required to produce shoes. To power these machines, a great amount of fossil fuels are used. As Greta says, fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases when burned. Coal is one of the sources of energy that used often to power factories.
Many cities use coal to fuel their electricity. This must change. Not by 2050. Now! Greta is right about this!
We consumers are trying. My husband and I buy clothing and shoes from thrift shops, like Goodwill. So we are not causing new items to be made. Many people have turned to “sustainable clothing” and furniture etc. But it is up to the companies that make these items to stop relying on coal, gas and oil. Regular citizens have little power over CEOs and their companies, other than to quit buying their products. CEOs must get some morality and Act Now!
Plastics are the worst polluters. When soda pop and other drinks were sold in glass, people would bring bottles back to get a cash deposit. The glass bottles would be crushed and re-used to make more bottles. When plastic began to be used for water bottles, soda pop bottles, shampoo bottles, trash cans and other containers, the world got buried in plastic. The ocean is choked with plastics. People can work hard to find products in glass containers. But these are expensive and hard to find right now. It is up to corporations/CEOs to Choose to quit using plastics.
Politicians must stop stalling on agreements to end reliance on gas/oil/coal. There would be fewer wars if nations were not reliant upon oil and gas which is prevalent in the Middle East. Western nations, First World nations, allow wars to go on endlessly so citizens can drive gas-fueled cars which pollute horribly (and to fuel electricity for cities).
Let us all join Greta Thunberg in demanding Change to save Mother Earth.