The Last Resort
The baby boomer generation identified itself with an urge to preserve. More than anything, they strove to keep things around, to not let things get away.
Consider: This is the generation that produced the photocopy machine so printed matter could be copied and kept, the compact disc so that their music would never fade, the VCR so they could have any movie or TV program at their fingertips. They organized the drives for historic preservation, championing renovation and watching This Old House. They decided to preserve the environment, protect the wetlands, save the whales, save the spotted owls, save the California condors.
They happily adopted technology and the personal computer. Now any information ever recorded could be at their fingertips. Hard disks and CD ROM technology put untold amounts of data in their hands. Fax machines and modems allowed them to send and receive that information to and from anywhere. Sophisticated printers allowed them to publish and create at will. It is ironic that the generation most dedicated to saving trees also is the one that embraced the technology that encouraged the wanton use, distribution, and waste of paper products.
However, the very inaccessibility of an item is often the key to its allure. I remember years ago a favorite, rarely seen old movie being scheduled at 2:00AM on the local UHF station. (Remember broadcast television?). It was an event. Staying awake to the late night hour, watching breathlessly through half closed, bleary eyes, not wanting to let that rare opportunity slip away. Sure, it was inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it was an opportunity. Who knew when the film might be shown again?
But today you can drive to the corner video store and rent it. Anytime. Any day. Hell, if you really like the movie you can buy a copy and have it on hand any time. You can even have a black and white film (how quaint) reissued in color. You are in control. But along with that you lose the allure, the mystery, the ability to take advantage of that special event.
The world had the nerve to try to change. A building you saw as a child might not be there now. A forest may have succumbed to a developing housing complex. Old businesses might close, old ballparks be torn down, old baseball teams move away in search of steady business. How dare they?
So with a characteristic arrogance that only the baby boomers could wear with a straight face, they organized. Funds were raised to restore old buildings, however useless or outdated they might be. Laws were passed to preserve the environment and save it from the greedy and uncaring hands of big business. They wanted life to retain the flavor of the "good old days", even if it meant rebuilding it in air conditioned plastic in Orlando.
The problem is, the universe is not static. Change is an inherent part of the natural progress of the world. Mountains erode, animals die, buildings crumble, TV shows are canceled, old movies slip from distribution. As we progress and develop, there is a natural need for change. And as we change, we leave a trail behind us of those things that have outlived their usefulness. All things must pass. (What a great name for an album.)
Previous generations showed a callous disregard for the world around them. They, too, displayed arrogance, but theirs was one of mankind as the top dog. The world was their playground. It was put here for their use, so they could freely partake of its resources. While this clearly represented an extreme attitude, the boomers went to the opposite extreme in their efforts to compensate.
Somewhere there must be a reasonable midpoint. Granted we should not randomly level a forest to build a mall, but neither should a mall be stopped just because a forest is already there. The lesson should be to learn to consider carefully and intelligently.
Mankind is just another player in the scope of the world. We are not in control of the planet for our own exploitation, but neither are we the appointed guardians. Is our destruction of a wetland area for highway construction any more immoral than a swarm of locusts destroying a field of grain? Is it a question of the types of actions we take, or only an issue of degree?
We are neither the first nor the last species to occupy this planet. We may cause a lot of damage and destruction, but the planet has been here a lot longer than we have. On global terms the earth can probably heal from anything we cause within a few thousand years, a heartbeat in the life of a planet. Is our concern truly for the planet, or only for ourselves?