Gen-X and the future

A while ago I finally carved out some time to read a book written by the two professors responsible for my disciplinary focus in landscape ecology: Paul and Hazel Delcourt. Their book, “Living well in the age of global warming: 10 strategies for Boomers, Bobos, and Cultural Creatives,” provides advice for people nearing retirement on how to adapt their finances and living arrangements given forecasted changes in ecosystems and the climate in the United States. It is a read that is as insightful and quirky as my former professors.

(For those of you wondering what a “bobo” is…. it’s a bourgeois bohemian, of course (!). “Cultural creatives” are those who are generally highly educated, engaged in “creative” professions, and tend to have less materialistic goals.)

While I really loved the approach that Paul and Hazel took to develop this kind of advice, I have to say that I felt the advice would serve Generation X (born roughly between 1965 and 1981) quite poorly. Much of the advice is based on how the amenities of different regions will be affected by changes in climate and species ranges, particularly from the viewpoint of real estate values. The book was written in 2001, well before the 2008 collapse of the housing market, and so much of their advice is moot at this point. But as I said, it is certainly a clever approach to the issue.

I have been thinking off and on about what sort of advice I would have for my fellow Gen X-ers, that cynical, sarcastic bunch sandwiched between the Boomers (who will likely suck Social Security dry) and the Millennials (who hate our current dour demeanors, and will certainly hate us as bitter, complaining elderly folks). Generally, Gen X-ers seem to be far more at ease when working individually, although we do spend a good chunk of energy on maintaining and growing our networks (personal and professional). It also seems that we have a propensity for the DIY activities (regardless of whether we are any good at them). This translates into a generation who may “downsize” and disappear into small towns and rural areas, with good soil and plenty of water, grumbling about all the things we miss about the big city until we visit our children in the big city (when we will grumble about the traffic, the pollution, the deterioration of infrastructure, etc.)

Of course, actually applying science to these hunches like the Delcourts did… that will require much more than the hand-waving that I’ve done here. Let’s see if this child of the Slacker Nation can actually pull that off… stay tuned!


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