Interview: Bob Olson - Silent Generation - Commercial Sales Rep (Books/Retired) - Also volunteers at a local grade school helping Kindergarten through 2nd graders to read
1. What are your thoughts when you hear that the climate is warming, the environment is being destroyed and that humans are the cause?
I don’t think people take it seriously nor does the government itself. I think we have to rely on corporations and see how they affect it. Take oil companies like Exxon and BP that still produce fuels that destroy the environment. Maybe they should be looking at things for the future like developing electricity through wind power and solar. I don’t think they honestly do, so someone else has got to take this initiative over. Corporations would do it if there is an incentive. If they don’t see it as a profit making idea they won’t do it.
2. In your mind what are the forces that drive climate change and environmental degradation?
Well, I think a lot of the problem is with agriculture. What are people who are putting all these pesticides into the soil doing to change that? I mean, its done to increase yield and to decrease illness in the plant life but how is that affecting the soil? This is a huge problem.
3. Has your life been affected in any way? If so, how?
No, but it will affect my grandkids. I’m sure there are many people who are affected. Look along the Mississippi where we have built all these levees and up in La Crosse too, now the waters are finding their way around all that stuff.
You know when you think about our news media, they didn’t really think globally years ago. There may have been environmental problems in the 50s but it wasn’t important enough to talk about. What was the environment like after the atomic bomb was dropped? We dropped a lot of them when we were testing. They don’t say much about that. It would be interesting to talk to our grandparents and see what they would have to say about climate.
Then there are all the fires on the west coast. Why are there so many more than there used to be?
In your opinion, what needs to be done?
Well, like anything that is an issue you have to really define the problem. Is it climate change or a weather problem? When you mix the two together people just kind of glaze over and don’t think about either one.
Lots of things have to be done. One example is plastic bags. What is the incentive for Walmart to stop using plastic bags? It has to be dollars and cents. You have to give them something for them to say – no more. What is the affect on their business if they can’t use their little plastic bag wheel at the end of the counter? I mean if a Walmart doesn’t take it seriously then we aren’t going to take it seriously. So what if you went to Walmart and said, “I don’t want a plastic bag”, what would they do?
Do you consider yourself part of the problem or part of the solution?
I guess I’m still trying to define the problem. I think I look to the government, like the EPA, for guidance but there is none. I think you get more leadership from cities and states. This would be an interesting question to ask the mayor of Madison.
I like stuff simple that I can follow. I would take guidance if I was told what the problems are and here are what we are going to do about it. And don’t give people options. This is the way we are going to do it. We will grumble a lot, we’ll write letters, but we’ll do it. Then when we do, our children will do it because we are setting the example.
What do you think the long term outcome of climate change and environmental degradation will be?
Well, it took us thousands of years to get to this point. I mean, what is religion and the clergy saying and doing about it? I think right, wrong, or indifferent, take a stand do something. Whatever people propose you know we’ll argue about it. We are not doomed. But I’ll tell you this, as long as it’s a dollar and cents thing, people won't do much until they see the payoff.