Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 15, 2020

The virus and our intergenerational responsibilities

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, I suspect that the elderly among us (say those over 60; I am 76) are feeling a bit more threatened than the younger segments of society who we have learned are less vulnerable to its worst effects. While I am not suggesting that this is a beneficial aspect of the epidemic, it does carry with it an appropriate and useful message for us elderly.  That message is, how do we like being subjected to a human-facilitated phenomenon that specifically targets our older portion of the population? Our collective response to that question, I suspect, is that we do not like it at all, thank you very much, and, furthermore, are totally in favor all international efforts that can be made to solve this problem – no matter how much the required solutions make life inconvenient for the rest of the human population. For example, while the infection rates of children by this virus are very low, we are substantially disrupting the educations of those children so that their viruses are not passed on to the total population and especially we elderly.

When their time came, I understand that the elderly of some Eskimo communities used to be put out on the ice for whatever fate waited them there – preferably a return to the food chain via their consumption by a passing scavenger. The prevailing belief was that this provided a net benefit to the viability of their community.  In our culture we tend to do the opposite – prolonging the lives of our elderly as much as possible.  At my age, I happen to like that attitude, of course.

There is, however, something that bothers me a great deal about the collective attitudes of our elderly generations.  That is, our elderly have not shown sufficient understanding and commitment to the future of those children I mentioned above and to all non-elderly human beings. What I am talking about now, of course, is the “virus” of global warming. For the last 30 years, we have had the capability and knowledge required for the prevention of this menace but lacked the will and determination to bring that action to fruition. As a result of my generation’s preference for a cheap, but poisonous source of energy, we have created a carbon-overdosed world that will prove to be far more difficult to cure than that created by biological viruses. While we can learn how to kill viruses, we can’t do that to CO2 molecules. Hopefully, we elderly will learn from the upcoming battle against the corona epidemic what it will feel like for today’s non-elderly to be facing a climate change calamity that is tuned to the destruction of their generation.

My generation was fortunate to live during a “Goldilocks” period of the USA in which almost everything was “just right”.  The Great Depression and WWII were over by the 40’s and carpets of opportunity were then laid out for us in all directions.  We are now also being well taken care of during our senior years by myriad benefits including an extensive government-subsidized medical program. In return, we now owe it to all people younger than us, to do much better than we have on the preservation of our planet’s assets for our descendant’s use in the coming decades. This will have to be both an international and intergenerational effort that will require considerable sacrifice and support by all of us.



  1. Spot on Dad. Excellent writing.

  2. An excellent article concerning President Trump’s similar responses the virus epidemic and to climate change can be seen at

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