In their Feb­ru­ary 7th issue, Bloomberg Busi­ness­week ran an exten­sive arti­cle on youth unem­ploy­ment, detail­ing its impact and prob­lems and how it is dri­ving polit­i­cal change through­out the world.

As I read the arti­cle, what occurred to me is that the par­a­digm cre­at­ed by our mod­ern world is one that takes from the young and gives to the old. 

Here is my evidence.

The tax­es that retirees once paid to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to fund their Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare ben­e­fits have been spent.  Their ben­e­fits are now paid with tax­es levied on cur­rent, younger workers. 

My moth­er com­plained often and loud­ly about the small size of her social secu­ri­ty check.  Just as often, I remind­ed her that about eigh­teen months after she start­ed to col­lect Social Secu­ri­ty, she had already received every­thing she paid into the sys­tem, and that deduc­tions from my pay­check were now pay­ing her social secu­ri­ty.  In my mind, her check was quite sufficient.

In 1945 the ratio of work­er to retiree was 42 to 1.  By 2020 it is pro­ject­ed to be 2.5 to 1.  This is not new data.  Every Con­gress­man is well aware of this predica­ment, yet they con­tin­ue to stick their heads in the sand, hop­ing the young will oblige and pay.

Keep in mind also that we have cre­at­ed a nation­al debt.  Just as we expect the young to fund our retire­ment and health ben­e­fits, we expect them to pay off the nation­al debt we have cre­at­ed by low­er­ing tax­es and increas­ing spending.

Addi­tion­al­ly, col­lege loans have become a fact of life.  In my gen­er­a­tion, you either saved every­thing you had ever earned and went to col­lege, worked your way through, had the plea­sure of your par­ents fund­ing your edu­ca­tion, or some com­bi­na­tion of these fac­tors.  Now, with easy access to stu­dent loans, the aver­age per­son grad­u­ates from col­lege after four years with $24,000 in debt. 

So we have laden our youth with 3 major bur­dens: our retire­ment, our nation­al debt and the cost of their own education.

And what about the earth?  We have con­vert­ed farm after farm into hous­ing sub­di­vi­sions.  We have put off deal­ing with com­bined water/ sew­er over­flow sys­tems, push­ing that eco­nom­ic bur­den to our youth.  We have guz­zled oil, a once vast and cheap ener­gy source, while delay­ing the devel­op­ment of alter­na­tive ener­gy solu­tions.  We con­tin­ue to take car­bon from the Earth and spew it in the sky, cre­at­ing glob­al cli­mate change and mak­ing our oceans tox­ic. And who do we leave this prob­lem to?  The young.  While we have enjoyed the con­sump­tion of lim­it­ed resources, we leave the cleanup and the con­se­quences to our chil­dren and grandchildren.

So if you, like me, are saying,”Enough already!, what actions do you take?

In my life I have two pri­ma­ry ways I can make an impact, in my busi­ness and in my every­day life.

Being a busi­ness own­er is one of the most cre­ative out­lets avail­able.  Every day, I have the option to cre­ate inter­nal and exter­nal mar­ket­places by my deci­sions and choic­es.  If we man­aged our busi­ness as if it belonged to the young, how might we do it different?

There is a con­cept called triple bot­tom line. Peo­ple, plan­ets and prof­its.  Busi­ness­es that sub­scribe to this prin­ci­ple are inter­est­ed in prof­its, as well as the health and well being of their employ­ees and their impact on the plan­et.  Many peo­ple look at this idea and believe it is too far out there.  How can car­ing for oth­ers, espe­cial­ly those respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the future be far out there?  Instead, I see triple bot­tom line very sim­ply as the only rea­son­able way to run a business.

My sec­ond oppor­tu­ni­ty is to make a dif­fer­ence on the small piece of Earth I call home, North­ern Ken­tucky.  I do this pub­licly, in the form of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, in two ways:  by chair­ing The Ken­ton Con­ser­van­cy, and by serv­ing as an elect­ed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict Super­vi­sor.  And I do it pri­vate­ly, by stew­ard­ing a rich and diverse piece of land we call Red Sun­flower Farm, grow­ing much of my own food, and pur­chas­ing the bal­ance of my food from local farmers.

In addi­tion, I dri­ve a hybrid car, com­bine trips when pos­si­ble, car­pool, recy­cle, reuse, keep my ther­mo­stat at a rea­son­able lev­el, etc.  Over the years I have changed so many fun­da­men­tal dai­ly prac­tices in my life to be more sus­tain­able, that I have lost track of them all.  They have just become how I live.

Gand­hi said, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”  What change do you seek?  How are you being the change?  Please share your sto­ries with us.