Stop Blaming Millennials for Killing Everything — and Start Hoping They Can Save Us

Baby Boomer Leaves a Polling Booth
Older citizens made sure their votes counted in the 2016 election — because they actually showed up. .

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP / Getty Images

It's election time in the United States, and everyone is talking about millennials. People are finally waking up to what's been obvious to anyone following the demographics — that the baby boomer generation has started its inevitable decline and by next year, millennials will outnumber baby boomers, 73 million to 72 million. Given the numbers, we shouldn't be reading stories about how the millennials have helped kill American cheese, mayonnaise, or golf. Instead, we should be reading about how it's baby boomers like me who have single-handedly killed everything important. Fortunately, the millennials are getting this:

I've noted before that aging baby boomers gave the British their Brexit and warned before the last American election that they might elect old white men who would kill the planet if millennials didn't get out and vote.

Timothy Egan of The New York Times wrote an opinion piece about this issue, noting that you can't blame millennials for the results of the last election, which gave the Senate, House, and presidency to a party of old, white boomers and seniors.

It’s boomers who are bankrupting the nation with a trillion-dollar deficit from a selfish tax cut. And it’s boomers who are ignoring climate change while the earth convulses and heads toward an early end.

The 'symptoms' are at all levels

I'm not even going to name or blame the president of the United States; he's a symptom, not the cause. They are all complicit, at all levels of government. Even as Florida gets flattened, the state's governor bans the use of the words "climate change" and its senator questions whether humans have anything to do with it.

It's also not just in the U.S.; conservative governments in Canada and the United Kingdom are going backward on climate, too. Their voters want lower taxes, not carbon taxes. And after much criticism of an earlier post, I acknowledge that not every baby boomer is like this, and not every millennial ride a bicycle and lives in Brooklyn.

The solution? Just vote

Meanwhile, after saying that we shouldn't blame millennials, Egan goes on and blames the millennials.

The numbers tell a shameful story. Barely half of all eligible millennial voters cast a ballot in the last presidential election, compared with nearly 70 percent of baby boomers and the two generations older than them....Old folks are counting on the young to be clueless, to stay in a social media stupor while the rest of the country designs the future.

"Social media stupor." Right. Bashing the millennials for looking at their phones when we have government by twitter.

projected population
Projected population by generation in the millions shows Baby Boomer population declines to about 18% by 2050. Pew Research Center

It's not that millennials are clueless; it's that the electoral system is structured to make it difficult. Millennials move more often, so they have to work harder to ensure they're registered to vote; they concentrate in cities so their votes are often "wasted" in gerrymandered districts, in crowded states with the same number of senators as many rural red states with a fraction of the population. They're also less likely to own property, which tends to make for more committed voters.

Also, the politicians of both major parties are often so old and out of touch, so busy pandering to baby boomers that it must seem to millennials that neither is worth voting for.

This will all change. It's basic demographics. But as Egan concludes, we can't wait for that.

Government by the few and the well connected will continue so long as the emerging majority does not exercise the most powerful option for a citizen. The good news is that turnout increases by about 1 percent each year. But we can’t afford to wait. Millennials, this one’s on you.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, we have a dozen years to drastically change the way we live, to stop burning coal and gasoline, to rebuild our homes and our cities if we want to avoid total climate catastrophe. We need to put a real price on carbon to get people to make less of it. But as the hilarious Knock the Vote ad notes, baby boomers like things just the way they are, and they show up to ensure that their elected representatives keep it that way.

So it really is up to the millennials.

Editor's note: This post contains opinions. Treehugger writers sometimes veer into the opinion sphere when it's an appropriate way to delve deeper into a topic.