Defining Progress

by Zeke Turner | 5/7/07 2:05am

I have always wanted my own beehive. I think I initially fell in love with the idea as a child when I was taught to simultaneously cherish and fear bees. After all, what other species can couple something as sweet as honey with something as bitter as the bee sting? I wish I could somehow make the human world as beautiful and productive as the world of bees, but having my own beehive to observe seems realistic.

But as of now, the beauty of the beehive is crumbling before our eyes; tens of billions of bees across America are dead and missing, and nobody knows where they have gone or who killed them.

Meanwhile, another one of my childhood visions of adulthood is being snatched from under my fingertips. Growing up, nothing puzzled me more than the quiet satisfaction adults got from reading the newspaper in the morning, especially on Sundays. People our age might relish Sunday mornings for the opportunity to catch up on sleep or sleep off whatever we did the night before, but for the 40- and 50-year-old set, Sunday mornings are the eye of the workweek's storm -- a time to sit around a sunny breakfast table with a cup of coffee and read a week's worth of news.

As my innocent notions of adulthood slip away, I wonder if I have to lose my youthful idealism like most adults before me. Does our generation have to grow old and jaded? Or can we create a new definition of adulthood as the conventions of our parents slip into oblivion?

In today's world, most decisions are made because of money. For example, it is cheaper to use pesticides on our crops, even though pesticides and other chemicals are probably responsible for the flight of our bumblebees. Our generation will have to create a new system for defining things as profitable, which will take the environment and sustainability into account. Nostalgia, however, should hold no sway in our new definition.

Nostalgia is at the top of the ever-shortening list of reasons to keep printing newspapers. Not only are newspapers and magazines having trouble making money, but they also cannot keep up with the speed of news on the internet. Last month, Conde Nast launched Portfolio magazine, which some predict will be the last new magazine ever. Across town, The Wall Street Journal, which removed three column inches this year to pinch pennies, is literally disappearing right before our eyes. Our generation will most certainly be getting our news from the internet, and it will be cheaper, more efficient and, most importantly, more environmentally friendly.

As I go through college, I am increasingly concerned with the practicalities of adulthood, and I spend less time thinking about the demise of beehives or how I will spend my Sunday mornings when I am 40. Finding a job and thinking about how to spend my last two years at Dartmouth are enough to keep me busy for now.

Our generation, however, does not really have the luxury of shortsightedness; we are beginning to understand that we were born at the dawn of a new era and that our definition of progress will have serious repercussions for those who follow. We must constantly question the changes that are being made around us. Are we reluctant to let go of the newspaper simply because our parents enjoyed it so much, or are we actually losing something by not being able to pick up a broadsheet on Sunday mornings?

Should we find a new way to pollinate our crops? Or should the generation after us live without bees?

And as the first generation to suckle at the teat of the internet, we will have to redefine progress for the 21st century. At our age, it would be too cocksure to think that we already know what will be best for the world in 20 years. But we should realize that adulthood might not look anything like what we imagined when we were young.

But what is so great about growing up anyway? Has not every adult realized that it is more fun daydreaming about the perks of adulthood when you are seven than suffering the slings and arrows of real adulthood when you are 40?

In a world that is constantly changing and evolving, the dreams of our childhood are our best asset. If the things we have always looked forward to about adulthood are disappearing before our eyes, we have to imagine what adulthood looks like for ourselves. I will just have to accept that my childhood dreams never will come true. I might never have a beehive, and I might not get to read the Sunday paper. But I will just have to use college to dream of something better.

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