Watching news coverage of the recent Climate Strike, held Sept. 20 in various locations around the world in the United States, including here in Maine, made me wish kids knew their history.

Here were millions of youth taking to the streets to protest what they perceive as the injustices foisted upon the planet by their elders.

Visit the Climate Strike website and you’ll read the following raison d’être on the home page: “The adult generations have promised to stop the climate crisis, but they have skipped their homework year after year. Climate strike is a wake-up call to our own generation. And it is the start of a network that will solve the greatest challenge in human history. Together. We need your hands and hearts and smarts!”

Obviously, kids today are clueless about what the environment was like not too long ago. If kids think they live in a cesspool today, they should think again. And you don’t have to look far to see how far we’ve come. Maine is a great example.

Not even four decades ago, our rivers ran red with tannery pollutants. There was smog wafting from the tops of paper company chimneys. There were timber trucks belching toxic diesel fumes. There were fuel-inefficient cars stinking up the highway with leaded gasoline.

In four short decades, these natural threats have disappeared, thanks precisely to an “adult generation” doing their “homework.” Trucks are equipped with diesel exhaust systems that filter fumes. Cars have catalytic converters that do the same. Factory chimneys have scrubbers and more advanced filtration systems. And, of course, the rivers are greatly improved.

How is it that the children don’t know what their parents and grandparents have done to improve the environment? Have they not been taught about all the cleanup efforts and laws their elders have painstakingly put forth?

Do they not know, for example, about the many land trusts and other environmental protection groups that have effectively made our world a cleaner, greener place? Do they not know that America has more trees now than it did 100 years ago? Have they not been told, or do they not care? Should these pioneering adults feel offended by the self-righteous pontifications from our youth? Yes.

One Climate Strike rally sign captures perfectly how disrespecting the protester’s sentiments were: “If you were smarter, we’d be in school.” As presidential candidate Joe Biden would say, “Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey.”

You know what else I saw during the Climate Strike coverage? Kids using smartphones. Yes, these same kids laying the blame of a warmer world on their elders were doing something that studies say adds significant carbon to the atmosphere. The kids say the world is addicted to oil but, of course, they’re blind to their own addictions.

One study predicts that, at current rates, the computer and information technology industry will be responsible for 17 percent of all greenhouse gases by 2040. Smartphones are damaging because they require mining for rare earth metals and daily recharging.

Kids unfairly criticize their elders for the 0.9 degree increase in global temperature (which not all experts say is something to worry about, by the way) but should point the finger at themselves, too. We’re all part of the problem, and we’re all part of the solution to creating a cleaner world.

Why are kids so quick to insult their elders when adults have done so much to improve the environment? How juvenile.

John Balentine, a former managing editor of the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

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