Chlöe Swarbrick is just 25 years old, but she's been a member of New Zealand's parliament for two years already. And yet, even as an established elected official, she deals with the same things the average 25-year-old deals with, like being dismissed and interrupted by members of the elder generation who assume they know better. While giving a speech about climate change on Tuesday, Swarbrick dealt with heckles from an older member of parliament attempting to talk over her. Instead of even bothering to engage with the noise, Swarbrick did what any Millennial would do. She told the politician, "OK, Boomer," and kept things moving.
Swarbrick was discussing a new bill that would require New Zealand to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 when the interruption happened. “How many world leaders, for how many decades have seen and known what is coming, but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep it behind closed doors? My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury,” she said. As she continued, a voice from the gallery can be heard trying to interrupt her commentary. Swarbrick briefly acknowledged the person with a glance, told them, "OK, boomer," and returned to her speech about the dire state of the climate, unabated by the distraction.
In an interview with Stuff, Swarbrick described her use of the phrase as a "simple summarisation of collective exhaustion." Sure, she could have engaged with the person trying to interrupt her time in front of parliament. She could have engaged with whatever his point may have been. But Swarbrick, like every other Millennial and Gen Z'er, has been down that road before. As she told Stuff, "you cannot win a deeply polarised debate — facts don't matter." Instead of wasting the breath required to lay out the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is real and our time to address it without irreparable harm is running out only to be interrupted or greeted with half-truths and outright falsehoods from a disingenuous old person, sometimes it's easier to just drop an "OK, Boomer," and move on.
Of course, the little jab from Swarbrick managed to rankle a whole lot of feathers. Ever since the phrase permeated the mainstream earlier this month with coverage from mainstream news outlets including the New York Times and NBC News, Boomers have started to take offense to the phrase, which is an incredibly Boomer thing to do. Bob Lonsberry, a conservative radio host, took to Twitter to say in a now-deleted tweet that "Boomer" is the "n-word of ageism" and complained that "being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new." Lonsberry deleted the tweet after getting ratioed, perhaps realizing that if you can actually say one of the words out loud but have to refer to the other as the "n-word," then maybe they aren't really comparable in how bad they are. Even Dictionary.com pointed out that "Boomer" isn't a slur.
Given all the frustration of Boomers over being called what they are, it's not surprising that Swarbrick got dinged for her comment. But she of course had the perfect response to the backlash. Swarbrick took to Facebook to acknowledge the negative comments she got for the remark, then said, "So I guess millennials ruined humour. That, or we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and abstain from avocados."
Swarbrick is certainly not the first Millenial or Gen Zer to simply give up on having a conversation about climate change with their older counterparts. Young people are considerably more worried about the effects of climate change than other generations, and rightfully so — they will be the ones who deal with the consequences of previous generations' actions (or inaction). According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted earlier this year, more than seven in 10 teenagers and young adults worry that climate change will cause a moderate or great deal of harm to people in their generation. Older generations are less convinced. A CBS poll conducted earlier this year found that nearly 40 percent of people ages 45-64 and 41 percent of people 65 and older believe climate change is a "minor problem" or not a problem at all. There's not much you can say to that, well except...