Marc Munroe Dion: Green revolution or class warfare?
I put $40 worth of gas in my truck Thursday night and didn’t get half-a-tank for my money.
I drove back to the office and ate supper at my desk. After I was done, I put my empty soda bottle in the office recycling box.
On the way home from work, I threw a cigar butt out the window of my truck.
Yeah. I know. The cigar butt thing was wrong.
I’m 51. I was a child in the OTHER America, the America of the early 1960s, when people thought smoking was good for the digestion, when you marked your success by driving the biggest car you could afford, when people welcomed a coal-burning power plant in their town because a plant like that meant jobs.
I hate to tell you younger folks this, but when the fast food hamburger became available, we LIKED the idea. It was fast! It was cheap! You could eat it in your car!
And I know that there are people reading this column shaking their heads and saying, “Yes, but you were raping the earth with your big cars, clogging your arteries with hamburgers, choking the planet with your coal plants. Weep for America!”
Just so people don’t think I’m sticking up for pollution (as big a sin in modern America as failing to embrace diversity) let me tell you what I’m really talking about.
I’m talking about a guy, a 1961 guy with a job in a power plant. I knew that guy, or I knew people like him. He owned, if I remember right, an eight-cylinder convertible and had no idea what kind of gas mileage the car got. Car salesmen didn’t used to tell you what kind of mileage a car got. They used to tell you how fast it would go.
The guy in the convertible, he’s smoking a cigarette, maybe even a cigar, and he’s headed out for a hamburger. He’ll eat it in the car. When he finishes the cigarette, he tosses the butt out the window.
That guy wasn’t about pollution.
That guy was about possibility.
I’ve seen all the global warming studies. I’ve read the doleful books about what happens when the world runs out of oil. I believe what I read, too.
But I remember back when no one thought anything was ever going to run out. Oil came from Texas. Cars came from Detroit. Steel came from Pittsburg. Beer came from Milwaukee. The country was huge, impossible to fill up, impossible to destroy. You could throw 30 cigarette butts a day out of your car window and never fill up this huge country. Smokestacks meant guys were working and families were eating. The oil was never going to run out.
And the guy in the 1961 convertible? He’d been born into the Great Depression, and he was thrilled to have a big car, overjoyed to have the money to buy as many cigarettes as he wanted. If he was a World War II veteran, as most older men were in those days, he could reflect with pride on the fact that he had helped to whip the world.
Yeah. I know. I’m 51. To people over 40, the golden age was always when they were young. I remember it better than it was. I know that.
And I know that the guys driving one-cylinder cars with sewing machine motors, the guys taking cloth bags to the grocery store, I know those guys are right. I also know most of them own a ton of useless energy-gobbling computers, blackberries, bluetooths, video game systems, GPS devices, iPods and cell phones. Most of these people have more high-end appliances in their kitchens than you’d see in a high-end restaurant. They’re big on flying down to Aruba, too.
Sure, it’s ecologically (and politically) correct to pick on the poor man who’s got his ego wrapped up in his big, flashy pick-up, but don’t dare suggest that plastic-encased, Chinese-made electronic toys are in any way wasteful. Ditto giant refrigerators, flying off on vacation or, God help you, the energy it takes to maintain either a golf course or a really big house in the ‘burbs.
Here in America, the “Green Revolution” is being very sensitive to class.
And, you know, I feel weirdly bad for the young kids, the kids who most likely will never get their license at 16 and then get a little job and then go out and buy a big, powerful, noisy, fast car and go out driving, not giving a damn about gas prices. That was fun.
Marc Munroe Dion is a reporter for The Herald News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.