I loathe it when older generations scoff at the younger ones. Sure, you get older and become jaded, cynical, and always think that your generation had it the worst when it comes to being bullied by different age groups. When the next crop comes to prominence there’s always someone finding flaws, instead of trying to potentially understand or learn. That’s why I truly believe in 100 years, historians are going to look at Generations “Z” (1996-2012), and “Alpha” (2013-TBD) with the same respect for their levels of determination as we currently look at the “Silent” and “Greatest” Generations of the 20th Century. Oh yes, those who have been called “weak” and “ill-prepared” by almost every other generation are going to end up dealing with catastrophes that only come around once in a century. However, there is a fork in the road when it comes to climate change that the younger generations are going to have to contend with in their lifetimes that will seal the future of humanity. I can promise that the direction this piece is headed is one that very few will suspect.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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The first 20 years of the 20th and 21st centuries have had many eerie parallels. A massive civil rights initiative—women and the right to vote and its similarity to LGBTQ+ civil rights. A major war—The Great War for the elders and Afghanistan/Iraq for the juniors. A huge change to businesses—monopolies by Carnegie and Rockefeller being busted up by President Roosevelt, and Big Banks being (temporarily) busted up by President Obama. A worldwide pandemic—Spanish Flu versus Covid-19. The current upcoming generations facing an incredibly daunting future—whether due to a world war, or massive infrastructure deficiencies which perpetuate income inequality. With all of this, there are two events I wanted to focus on specifically. The first has been playing its way through the legal paths during 2021 and has a very “Teddy Roosevelt feel” about it: unions and big business. The second pertains to the current precipice these younger generations are on and how they can either save humanity or ensure its extinction.
Up to this point, the current status of worker’s rights is mirroring the start of the 20th century pretty well—though the ideas of worker's rights and unionizing nationwide were based around an author. Per the Constitutional Rights Foundation, author Upton Sinclair fully intended to use his station as a writer to expose the meat-packing industry. His book “The Jungle” was first published in 1905 as a serial in “The Appeal to Reason” and then as a book in 1906. By the end of 1906, Roosevelt overcame meat-packer opposition and pushed through the Meat Inspection Act. It took an act by the president and Congress to allow the FDA to be born and for unionization in the meat industry to come about. Before this, the owners of large meatpacking corporations tried to spin, stall, and do everything they could to stop them from essentially doing whatever they wanted to the American public. They attempted to form a “Beef Trust”—a collaborative group made up of the five largest meatpacking companies—with its base of packinghouses in Chicago’s Packingtown area. Though one would think that a self-regulating meat industry kept in-house would be on the up-and-up, The Beef Trust was dissolved by the United States Supreme Court in 1905.
The current event sweeping the nation is the horrific treatment of Amazon employees, and how poorly Amazon has responded to their workers and their rights to try to unionize. I want it to be known that I am fairly neutral when it comes to unions. I have seen them both be a Godsend to the working man, as well as be a bureaucratic nightmare for the same. They don’t work in every situation or business. But when it comes to the rights of the “common man” and how history has shown how the cards play out from the bottom of the deck, I would rather err on the side of caution. Let a union fail on its own merits rather than dooming it before it leaves the gate. In Amazon's case, I think sending out a memo to voice their displeasure in the recent uptick of urine and feces in bags and water bottles, says a lot.
If you haven’t seen this, I beg you to go down that rabbit hole. Amazon employees were complaining they hadn’t been given enough time during their deliveries to allow for bathroom breaks. Some of the Amazon employees—whether out of malice or need— “forgot” their official company bags when dropping off their delivery vehicles and then the “gift” was found by someone else. Included in this memo are such gems as “This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to station with poop inside.” And, “I know it may seem obvious, or like something you shouldn’t need to coach, but please be explicit when communicating the message they CANNOT poop, or leave bottles of urine inside bags.” Employees had been voicing their concerns for some time now that their working conditions only allowed for them to perform work-related activities, and literally NO time for anything else, including bathroom visits. This is one of the many reasons that Amazon workers are trying to unionize. Of course, owner Jeff Bezos, whose net worth has gone up billions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is trying to fight this tooth and nail. Between injunctions, cajoling, and just open disdain for anyone that tries to stop the Amazon way of life, Bezos and his corporation are doing all they can to mount some kind of defense. When Democrat Senator Warren from Massachusetts criticized the corporate giant because of the controversy above, the corporate Twitter account responded to Warren's criticism by saying, "One of the most powerful politicians in the United States just said she's going to break up an American company so that they can't criticize her anymore." Another strange element that occurred up too, and including, the day the vote ended in March 2021 for the Amazon workers located in Bessemer, Alabama. Twitter accounts purporting to be those of workers at Amazon fulfillment centers around the U.S. began popping up and tweeting about how great it was to work at the company, how they were able to use the bathroom whenever they wanted and why unions were bad for workers. Yet they also seemed to make mistakes, including one who said she was “barely scraping by” before hastily walking it back in subsequent tweets. I’m hoping that the people’s voices can be heard and it doesn’t require the inept touch of our national lawmakers.
Gen Z and Alpha are going to be coming into their own over the next decade. I am hoping they can look at history, even if it is just the example I gave above regarding Amazon's treatment of their employees, to see that when it comes to humanity, it will often surprise you in negative ways. This ties in as well with climate change and the fact that there’s nothing that can be done to stop it at all. Given this fact, we know that the only way we can sustain human life is by refocusing our resources to getting off this planet. I’m hoping I haven’t lost all of you due to how silly this argument sounds. How pessimistic. How nihilistic. I just ask that you stay with me for a few paragraphs while I explain my reasoning. This will begin with me being the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the political fence. Let’s start with the conservative thought that climate change is not controlled by the actions of man at all.
To me, this is really the grimmest of the two. Whenever you speak to a farmer, there’s a certain amount of reverence that they give to mother nature. It’s the same when you ask anyone whose livelihood depends on the outdoors. This means that we can control absolutely none of it. The constant temperature rising, the outlandish storm systems, the changes to farming communities, and Almanac’s which fuel the information needed by those who feed the world, nothing. I know the popular argument from the GOP is that it goes through periods of heating and cooling. Not this time it isn’t. A 2019 report by Nature Ecology & Evolution found that up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades. The report illustrates that we are currently in a mass-extinction event … for the 6th time. Humans haven't been the only creatures on top of the food chain in Earth’s history. We’re not even the first five. There have been other species that were wiped out by catastrophic events. Whether it was a giant meteor, ice age, etc. “mother nature” doesn’t care, and at the current rate, she’s not stopping and there’s nothing we can do but hold on.
Scientifically speaking the Democrats are the ones who have data on their side. This approach has allowed them the needed data to help curb climate change as much as possible with the current technologies afforded our intellect. Models upon models, the best minds working together to stem humanity's self-imposed extinction. The problem is the “human condition.” After watching how we, as a species, acted towards our own during the Covid-19 Pandemic, I cannot foresee anyone doing anything for anyone other than themselves. Even when indulging in this self-absorption, the steps that could lead to someone catching the virus were an afterthought. Throughout, many people have thought it was a hoax and didn't take any precautions, only to have themselves or a loved one catch it and succumb to their symptoms later.
Maybe this is the low-hanging fruit? OK, we have millions of people who pray to a “Creator” of some kind. Just a few miles away from them is a second group of people who pray to the same “Creator,” but use different words and gestures. Because of the different words and gestures, they are all going to try to kill each other—and this is not specific to one faith or region of the world. In realistic terms, do you think it would be possible to remind the firing squadron of soldiers who terrorize an entire village through ethnic cleansing to pick up their gun casings for recycling? I think you get the idea. So to try and convince BILLIONS of people to get on the same page cannot realistically happen.
Do I think we should be more Earth-friendly? Yes, but not with the thought that it’s fixing anything; any actions at this point are just going to slow down the inevitable. That’s why I feel we need to put more funding into space programs, agriculture programs, life-sustaining programs designed to withstand a non-Earth atmosphere. As much as I don’t necessarily trust Elon Musk, right now he is doing everything to get Space X up and running with the intent of human transportation.
All of this I have written about is why I’m hoping that Gen Z and Alpha are watching the adults very closely. Watching adults online stabbing someone in a grocery store over canned meat stays with you, and it needs to. There needs to be a remembrance in the fact that whenever given the choice, humans have evolved to only being able to contend with what is directly in front of them and will always ignore the long-term. But keep this little statistic in the back of your mind: If we do nothing, then we will be 6th major species of life on the planet, and the first to cause its own extinction.
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