I recently saw this long and lengthy post on an acquaintance’s Facebook page. At first I was interested and wanted to see where it was going to go.

Image from chloesblog.bigmill.com

     Checking out at the supermarket recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days”. The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.” She was right about one thing–our generation didn’t have the green thing in “Our” day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on “Our” day, here’s what I remembered we did have…. 

As soon as the person had a chance to respond to the ‘whippersnapper’s’ comment, I knew it was going to run into that trite BS about how life was better in the old days. Worse yet the person continuously makes the comment that we did have this ‘green thing’ back in their day.

What a waste of a ‘teachable’ moment.

You could have regaled that young person with the facts that President Theodore Roosevelt may not have been the first President to create National Parks but he doubled their numbers within his term of office.

Not only that, but he was friends with John Muir, the crazy Scottish fellow who founded the Sierra Club about 100 years ago. The biggest grassroots environmental group was founded that long ago by people considered a little nutty.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

But wait, I have more. There is Rachel Carson who graduated from college in 1919 (huge feat in those days) to become a biologist. She is credited with creating the contemporary conservation movement and published the groundbreaking Silent Spring in 1962.

Carson would pass away in 1964 but her legacy lived on in The Clean Water Act of 1972 and The Clean Air Act of 1970 as well as the banning of DDT.

Image from Snowyoctonber.blogspot.com

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

When the American bald eagle was endangered, it was discovered that the pesticide DDT weakened the shells of eagle eggs  and put eaglets at risk when the mother roosted on the eggs. Numbers of the birds had dropped dramatically but were on a resurgence until this pesticide was introduced.  DDT was banned in the US in 1973. It took about 20 years for the bird to regain population levels to be taken off the endangered list. To get this done took much lobbying from people in the ‘environmentally conscious’ community.

 Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Who can forget President Ronald Reagan’s dismissive attitude towards environmentalists, those ‘tree huggers,’ and how instead he claimed trees were killing people. Oh, and remember ‘Acid Rain?’

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of Wales. In the kitchen, we blended & stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

I remember back in the 80’s when Chicago had the recycling centers and how I would drive my stuff over. We sorted our glass by color at that time. Blue bags came later. Now, we take our recyclables to a private firm but we can still do it.

What I wish is that people would stop perpetrating the lie that the ‘green thing’ wasn’t happening. There were crunchy people back then who worked to make a difference when they were saving the whales, dolphins, tuna and manatees. Those crunchy people fought for a better environment and to get big business to stop polluting our drinking water sources.

It is easy to sit back and say that trite reminiscent response to try to make the current youth feel guilty because they are smug and this ‘green thing’ is all they have ever known. But what you are really doing is being just as dismissive and ignorant of what was going on in the past as that young cashier.

It means that during the last 50 years you’ve ignored the sad Indian commercials , all of Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to clean up America and the ‘don’t be a litterbug’ advertising campaigns. You have completely forgotten the gas crisis of the 70s, the electric and hybrid car revolution of the 00s (remember Al Gore’s son getting a speeding ticket in his Prius), and wind turbines.

Image from The Daily Green.com

There was always a ‘green thing’ going on but you choose to mask your ignorance with sentimentality. Meanwhile, there are communities banning those plastic grocery bags. Perhaps now is the best time to start doing that ‘green thingy’ by taking a canvas bag with you whenever you go shopping.

Unless you like appearing as the neighborhood old fart on a regular basis.