Al Gore and the Collective Boomer Consciousness



This cartoon, drawn circa 1970 amid the intensity of my college years,* captures what most of us Boomers knew back then:

We humans were suffocating the life out of God’s green earth. And not all Boomers were mired at Woodstock waiting for Al Gore to discover this inconvenient truth.

I’m a little surprised at the ferocious India ink detail of the cartoon, drawn decades before Photoshop made it easy to color inside the lines. Variations of shading had to be simulated with a tiny steel nib and the porous paper threatened to unleash inadvertent Rorschach blots where they were least desired. It must have taken hours to outline this drawing in blue pencil (favored by cartoonists because blue was invisible to the photo-offset camera) and ink it with brush and pen. I wonder what classes I was ignoring while focusing on my drawing pad?

Probably the cartoon was drawn in anticipation of the first Earthday, which was observed in nearby Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. The self-appointed master of ceremonies was Ira Einhorn, a bloviated, reeking hippy I had never heard of but quickly concluded was a horse’s ass when he repeatedly dissed the guest speaker, U.S. Senator Ed Muskie. Einhorn – infamous as “The Unicorn” – was later convicted of killing his girlfriend and, after escaping to Europe and Ireland for several years, was ultimately re-captured and is now spending the rest of his life in prison.

It’s too bad the first Earthday had such an ignominious sidebar but it did attract a large crowd and it was the first of many Earthdays to come. Today even the ripest Boomers (I am 72 next month and in the oldest vanguard of Boomerdom) still believe we humans are suffocating the life out of God’s green earth.

It’s dismaying, then, that the Boomer in the White House is betraying his generation by ignoring the near-unanimous conclusions of scientists that climate change is caused by human excesses.

The Boomer in the White House (hopefully the last of his ilk) is famous for his limited vocabulary and inability to read more than a page of double-spaced large-pica type, so perhaps his ignorance is not entirely his fault. Whether he can actually think his way through a scientific syllogism or not, his very presence in the Oval Office provides a license for his greedy minions to seek short-term profit over long-term clean air.  They have willfully tossed aside even modest restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gases or the exploitation of non-renewable resources on the grounds they prevent rich business persons from getting richer. Nearly a half-century after the first albertarnoldgorejrEarthday, the official policy of the U.S. Government is in full retreat from efforts to save the earth.

I think the moral of the story for the rest of us Boomers is this: we can’t let our age-mate Al Gore do all the teaching by himself.

Not all of us voted for Al when he was politically active, but we were pleased when he found a constructive avocation after he left public service. An Inconvenient Truth was probably the most amazing PowerPoint presentation in history, though some Boomers thought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences betrayed its leftist slant when it awarded it an Oscar (which later led to the Nobel Peace Prize itself).

Be that as it may, Al tells the truth, however inconvenient it may be. And most every other scientist on the face of the overheated, storm-plagued, glacier-melting, ocean-rising earth agrees with him.

It’s time for those of us who organized the first Earthday to fall in full force behind him.

The cartoon I drew in 1970 is truer now than it was then. I just didn’t expect the specter of doom to arrive so soon.

*Drawn for The Spotlight, the student newspaper of Eastern Baptist College, now Eastern  University.

About Philip E Jenks

Philip, a synodical deacon in the ELCA Metropolitan New York synod, is a retired communicator for American Baptist Churches USA, the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, the U.S. National Council of Churches, and two Philadelphia area daily newspapers. He and his spouse, the Rev. Dr. Martha M. Cruz, are the parents of six adults and are members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, N.Y. They live in Port Chester, N.Y.
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