Caring For The Environment

Nowadays, most of the world is falling victim to the effects of modern-day living …

One aspect of consumerism today is the abundance of plastic packaging. Almost everything that one purchases is wrapped in some type of plastic and many foodstuffs are often in plastic trays with a plastic-derived wrapping. After decades of free supply, supermarkets are now charging for plastic carrier bags in the hope that they will be used more than once. This initiative has often been implemented by governments but to be honest, it is too little too late. Many countries encourage recycling of various products including certain plastics but this facility can be very confusing to the consumer as there is currently no universal directive. The recycling option depends entirely upon the facilities available in any given area which means that far too much refuse continues to end up in landfill sites.

The younger generation no doubt view recycling as innovative and a step forward, but in truth, the practice was a well-instilled discipline several decades ago. To illustrate this point about ‘going green’, just read the following that has been doing the rounds on social media.

An elderly customer was at the store checkout. The young cashier suggested to her that she should bring her own bags because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologised to the young girl and explained “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded in typical blame-culture fashion “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The customer agreed with her saying that “our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in our day! Grocery stores bagged groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household rubbish bags was to use brown paper bags as book covers for our school textbooks. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalise our books on the brown paper covers. But, too bad we didn’t do the ‘green thing’ back then”.

The elderly customer continued. “We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator or lift in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a gas-guzzling machine every time we had to pop around the corner. But you are right … we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day. Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the disposable kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-consuming machine indoors. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Children often got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, and not the over-priced designer stuff of today. But you, young lady, are right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in our day”.

The old lady went on. “Back then we had one television or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of  a football pitch. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send via the post, we used old newspapers to cushion it, not foam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t start an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to visit health clubs to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But you’re right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’back then. We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade was blunt. But we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then!

“Back then, people took the tram or bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s €35.000 SUV which cost what a whole house did before the ‘green thing’. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23.000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fast food outlet. Isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then?”

Too many youngsters today are of the smart ass brigade and only too willing to preach to their far more experienced elders. Whilst old age is never going to be easy, we’re thankful still to be around, but it’s easy to be pissed off … especially by a tattooed, multiple-pierced smartass who can’t give change without the cash register indicating how much.

So, basically, there’s nothing new in recycling and today’s generation of industrialists and consumers have much to learn!

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Ageism In The Workplace

For many people in this country, employment opportunities are being denied because of age…

Should someone now lose their job in their 40s or 50s, the chances of finding new employment in the UK presents a major challenge to even the most qualified of people. The media is now full of stories from older workers telling how they lost their employment through no fault of their own never to return.

Whilst official unempoyment figures may show that some 2.67 million people were seeking work as at mid February 2012, this figure fails to take into account those who may be in low paid part time employment and the many that fail to officially register with the Department of Work and Pensions. Other statistical analysis suggested that there were some 2.8 million people over the age of 45 without paid work in the UK as far back as September 2006.

On 1 October 2006 new laws were introduced to combat age discrimination in the workplace applying to staff under the age of 65. No longer will firms be able to deny an interview, refuse a job offer, deny training or sack someone under 65 on the grounds of age. Sadly this has had very little impact upon the attitude of employers towards the older applicant, yet it is something that is very difficult to prove. So why are so many people in their 50s and 60s without lucrative paid work?

One theory is that people feel discouraged to apply for jobs because of their age, whilst others attribute the inability to work because of health reasons. The older candidate is stereotyped as being inflexible, unable to adapt to new technology, and lacking creativity. They therefore fall outside the demographics of modern business methods. Whilst employers cannot specifically mention age in a recruitment advertisement, subtle phrases such as the ideal candidate will be expected to grow with the young company effectively exclude the older person from applying. In other words, discrimination is being shown but circumnavigates the law.

Another subtle form of discrimination against the older applicant are academic requirements. So many vacancies today specify a university degree, no matter how poor or irrelevant to the job in question that might be. This is fine for the younger applicant as at least 40% of school leavers move into higher education but some 30 years ago this figure was as low as 6%. This means that many older applicants do not meet the basic criteria and are therefore eliminated from the selection process. Potential employers overlook three important qualities here, namely that the older applicant will have considerable business experience, he or she is likely to be professional in their approach to work, and will undoubtedly be more reliable.

How times have changed! Back in the 1970s, nine out of 10 men over the age of 50 were employed. There was an attitude of respect towards the older worker, and in many industries, loyalty was rewarded. The next two decades saw a decline in traditional labour markets as industries closed due to a lack of competitiveness and in a period of rejuvenation, the emphasis on younger staff was born. Those who were in managerial or professional jobs have had most to lose if they were made redundant after their mid 40s.

With so many older people seeking new employment prospects, it is somewhat ironic that the government is forcibly extending the age before official retirement. Whilst this article is predominantly centred on the older generation of unemployed people, it must not be forgotten that there are currently over one million people seeking work in the 16-24 age bracket. Surely it would make economic sense to get some of these people into employment and training instead of prolonging the working life of those approaching retirement age.

Governments fail to acknowledge some of the major implications of long term unemployment. Firstly, people lose their self esteem and motivation as they see little to strive for in the future. In the case of a minority of younger people, this has led to recent riots, as individuals strive to make themselves heard in one way or another. For the older person, the onset of ill health is more prevalent as the mind ceases to function in a disciplined manner. Both scenarios subsequently put a considerable drain on the country’s resources, funds that could be used to support training for young people and, where necessary, paid to companies as an incentive to employ older applicants with the skills, knowledge and experience that are waiting to be exploited.

Anyone reading this who knows me will be well aware that I have first hand experience of age discrimination. Having been made redundant from a middle management position some years ago, I found it impossible to secure another position despite having had several interviews. Even recently, despite attending an interview for a position falling well below my skills and capabilities, the job was offered to a 30 year old! Whilst I am currently self employed and therefore not a statistic in the unemployment figures, I struggle to survive like so many people in a similar situation due to a considerable reduction in my workload over the last two years.