How did Little Mary Sunshine become… this!

What’s the female version of “grumpy old man”?

I’m turning 76 and, whatever it is, I think I’m getting there.

Is it “vain old woman”?

“Look at my ankles (after 12 hours of elevation to deflate the souffle that puffs up out of my shoes), thin as the day I was married.”

And, pointing to the bits of skeleton that still angle out of the sags and bags, “Look at those collarbones. Zaza Gabor, right? And those cheekbones (sucking in my cheeks which is unnecessary as I’ve got two craters exposed as my entire face surrenders to gravity)?

Or is it the nasty, “Well, when I was a girl, we never…”?

That’s it. Next stop: “Nasty old lady.”

Far enough into dementia to lose civilized filters about what comes out of her mouth.

Well, this nasty old lady is tired of reading news bulletins about global sizzling and saying, “I told you that 30 years ago!” I’m tired of quoting myself when yet one more young millennial throws up a Wix website, branding herself as a minimalist, and blogging about her latest insight about “enoughness” (TM: moi). My hair is frizzled because it’s on fire..

I’m tired of high-paid consultants declaring that “Sustainability” is out and “Regeneration” is in, knowing that “regeneration” will soon be as green-washing a buzz word as sustainability was in the 90s. And no sooner grumbled (and heard by ever-listening Google) up pops an ad for an agro-chemical company with a picture of work-hardened hands in loamy soil, declaring their commitment to… wait for it…regeneration. “Don’t get me started,” I say and then start anyway.

I remember back (30 years ago) when I gathered dozens of authors of books (yes books, dearie, no websites then) about simplicity to turn it into a kick-ass movement rather than a trend. I remember two years later when RealSimple, the focus-group manufactured glossy magazine with more ads than content, stole our two most potent words out from under us to sell perfume.

“Back in my day…”

I watch, aghast, this sentence hurtling for my mouth, “back when sustainability was new and radical, we dreamed of it being on all decision-makers lips.” In fact, nasty old lady filters gone, I do say that.

And then I launch into, “I was there when the Bruntland Commission report (oh, you never heard of that? Tsk tsk) landed in the United States. Of course, you know about the Club of Rome report, Limits to Growth… no?” I want to electrify my already dried out crown of gray hair and scream, “You young people, we knew 50 (f-bomb) years ago that this day would come when we’d be 8 billion people on a depleted planet…”

And off goes Granny, the grand kids inching away as she keeps muttering, “Back in the day, we didn’t even have computers. We typed. On typewriters. Oh, back then phones had cords and books had covers and we still (f-bomb) made a revolution.”

I’m a regular Jill in the Box.

At the slighted provocation, out pops the nasty old lady with another diatribe. Next thing you know, I’ll be saying, “Whipper Snapper.” “Wet behind the ears.” And, “You think you’re so all fired smart…”

I remember the first meeting of Clinton’s President’s Council on Sustainable Development in Seattle, when my Sustainable Seattle team was new and certain of imminent success. The heads of environmental organizations and the heads of major corporations gathered around the same table politely puzzling through how some could keep profiting and some keep attracting donors while all sounding like they are rising to the sober equation of disaster on the horizon. Then a young aid brought up the R word. Redistribution. Sharing the wealth. Before she could say the M word, moderation, or the L word, less, the corporate representatives reared up in their seats in water ballet perfect synchronization and said, “Well. If that’s what we are talking about, we’re leaving.”

Oh, don’t get me started!

Oh, you say I got myself started. You say I’m building up to a rant again. You… oh wait, did you say OK Boomer and leave the room while I put on my mean squint, waggling my finger at you?

Deflated, I cry. See, under every nasty old lady is a crestfallen idealist, grieving for how mighty dreams dribble into meager rivulets, despairing as a new generation, up against everything she tried to prevent, climbs the same mountain but has to drive an Uber on the side. And then, having dropped past fury and grief, I arrive at amazement at how much smarter, more informed, and more strategic the current crop of “hair on fire” youth-of-many-colors are, a massive army of Unstoppables, going with their spears right to the heart of the Zombie Financial System, right to the guts of the grumpy old men running extractive industries. They are as intent as I was on killing the beast that’s killing us.

And I take my bony fingers and I snap open my little leather change purse and send as much support as I can their way. Leaving enough in there, of course, for a birthday present to me. Maybe purple hair finally? Or a tattoo?


  1. However if it was not for folk like you, these whippersnappers would know nothing!

    I do believe that the Simplicity movement/sustainable fashion is helping our daughters (&!perhaps sons) to buy less & revere their purchases

    My daughter is certainly more thrifty for me being her Mother, and I learned an awful lot from your wonderful book with Joe

    Keep ranting x

    Alison Deacon
  2. Perhaps a sizable portion of the BabyBoom needs to start ranting and raving like “crazy old men” and “crazy old ladies.” After all it was our generation that has so badly failed these young people in regards to the environment. We started out pretty solid but somewhere around the time of Reagan our group decided money and materialism was our next goal, and we went after it in spades. Oh not everyone of course, but generally the BabyBoom generation “became” what we were fighting against when we were young. Just look at the 3 Presidents born in 1946, not a wondrous lot I can assure you. We the BabyBoom are not going have a positive legacy as we leave this mess we have created to these young people to sort out…if that’s even possible.

    But maybe a few of us, or even a few million of us can start ranting and raving with these young ones to stop this juggernaut of environmental degradation before we our selves are out of here.

    Thank you for this piece Vicki, it’s people like you that have given a damn about what really is happening.

    Gregory Edwards
  3. Yes, agreed. Your voice is necessary and needed. I felt the same growing up (in the 80’s/90’s) – utterly dumbfounded how there was such moral, intentional blindness and disregard to what was crystal clear and factually urgent in the need to change the ways/amount of production & consumption, environmental impacts and implications, and increasing amounts of waste that people didn’t think ‘was a big deal’ or of actual concern.

    I love your humor and expression of truth. At times it feels like the world is on a bad shrooms trip,
    even so,
    grounding voices like your own are ever more important and needed to keep a positive light upon the rocky path of truly taking care of our planet (and ourselves as well).

    Grateful for your posts, books, podcasts and sharing your messages.

    Light and love

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