America’s 1973 oil crisis shocked Americans with fuel shortages, lines at gas pumps, and civil unrest. Congress reduced speed limits to 55 MPH on federal highways to conserve fuel. Anxiety persisted in 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected America’s champion of increased efficiency, for both energy and water.
Just days into his presidency, President Carter bravely called on all Americans to change their patterns of consumption:
“We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren. We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.”
President Carter issued numerous initiatives to spur conservation and instill confidence. We children learned to wear layers, turn down the thermostat, and conserve water. My grandfather taught me at age 11 to conserve water by putting plastic milk cartons filled with rocks in the back of the toilet. When I was 14, he taught me to take a three-minute shower.
That’s right: a three-minute shower. The bather gets wet; then the shower is shut off, then soap and shampoo are applied, then the water is turned on for the rinse. My grandfather would stand outside the door and time me. He would stop the timer when I shut the valve off to lather up, then resume timing me when rinsing commenced.
I cannot say that I have habitually taken three-minute showers in the subsequent 42 years. However, I can confidently say I have more greatly appreciated showers of any duration as a consequence.
In contrast, many adults in the current political climate have abdicated instructing the young in the importance of frugality. Carter sought to reduce consumption by calling for individual responsibility and patriotic self-sacrifice through specific policies. Today, many teachers and other leaders encourage the young to be angry and protest without policy — without introspection — in the name of climate change.
Today’s histrionic “adults” inculcate fear and anger in America’s young, bequeathing hopelessness and intellectual laziness to their children along with swollen government debt, polluted air and water, and destroyed families and communities. Carter warned in 1977:
“The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America…. Confidence in the future has supported everything else — public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States…. In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.”
The problem has indeed worsened. Today’s young are much more interested in feigned victimhood than personal corrective action. One marketing research study “found that Millennials fall behind others when it comes to the easier green activities: Only 33 percent of Millennials say they adjust the thermostat to save energy (vs. 48 percent of all Americans) and just 34 percent recycled paper and aluminum cans (vs. 46 percent overall).”
But consider these additional symptoms of a frugality deficiency:
- A Pew Research Center survey revealed that: Some 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64, and to 37% among Americans 65 and older.
- The Centers for Disease Control determined that: Almost half (44.9 percent) of 20- to 39-year-olds eat fast food on a given day. The rate drops to 37.7% for those aged 40 to 59 and to 24.1% for those 60 and older.
- Pew Research related that: Roughly nine-in-ten American adults (92%) own a mobile phone of some kind. Although these mobile devices are ubiquitous today, the share of adults who own one has risen substantially since 2004, when Pew Research conducted its first poll on cell ownership.
- CNBC averred that: More than half of millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1996, think that they will be millionaires at some point in their lives….Over 70% of millennial men say they will be millionaires at some point, while 38% of millennial women report being similarly optimistic.
- Young people are more likely to have numerous electronic devices, as Pew found that: The majority of youth have access to three or four of the five items asked about on the survey — desktop or laptop computer, smartphone, basic phone, tablet, and game console. Fully seven-in-ten teens have or have access to three or four of those items.
What this reveals is a generation that pollutes more than the older generations it is encouraged to deride. The US Census further reveals of today’s youth:
“Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds…. Table 4: ‘More Than Half of Younger Millennials Live in Their Parents’ Homes’…. Table 6: ‘One in Four Young People Living at Home Are Neither in School Nor Working.’”
Today’s climate-change activists are not curtailing their own activity. They invoke “the planet” (which “cannot speak for itself”) as their self-righteous voice of anger and indignation. But if they wish to change the climate, they must consider the electronic waste in their own techno-addicted eyes. Today’s old fogeys had neither the capacity to pollute in their youth, nor the propensity to waste now, that these youngsters demonstrate with alacrity.
This provides proper context for the international lecture recently pronounced by Greta Thunberg, who ironically raged: “My message is that we’ll be watching you. (applause) This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones…”
Everything is quite upside down here, and the adults on the planet are supposed to take the lead — as Carter did 40 years ago. Instead, many world leaders applaud aimless child protests that supposedly “raise awareness.” A better plan is for young people to stop polluting so heavily via electronic devices. Greta says “We are willing to do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse even if that means skipping school or work….” Is it within her power to encourage America’s youth to be the generation that does less polluting and complaining rather than being the one that does both more?
Perhaps conservation — of water, computer and phone use, gasoline, electricity, food — should be taught in school, and children could contribute solutions rather than be encouraged (by adults!) to skip school to gripe. America’s youth would greatly benefit if all were trained in the discipline of a three-minute shower and perhaps a mouth-washing with soap. That way the ecosystem would benefit.