Posted by: JDM..... | February 10, 2012


yesterday was a minute ago….

I was looking at a picture of my grandson this morning and it occurred to me that he’s about the same age I was when my own grandfather was the age I am now. The thought made me smile but it also brought to mind some rather alarming observations I have made recently.

When my grandfather was born, the population of the United States was 50,189,209. There were only 38 states in the Union then, and the US Cavalry was still fighting with the Apache, Sioux, Nez Pierce, Cheyenne, and other native peoples of the far west.

There were no automobiles, airplanes, radios, or televisions. Goods were transported by horse drawn wagons, rail, or by sea. Although steam was coming into use on the ocean, sailing ships were still the primary vessels of commerce until after my grandfather finished school and began his first job. I recall one of my grandmothers remarking how she found it amazing that she had gone to school in horse drawn cart and did her homework by the light of a whale oil lamp, yet lived to see the television broadcast of a man walking on the moon. A lifetime can seem rather short when we look at it from a different perspective.

Try looking at it this way:

  • When my grandfather was born, the population of the country was 50,189,209.
  • When my father was born, the population of the country was 100,546,000.
  • When I was born, the population of the country was 138,397,345.
  • When my daughter was born, the population of the country was 205,052,174.
  • When my grandson was born, the population of the country was 303,202,683.
  • The population of the USA this morning was about 309,620,000.

Or, how about this?

  • The World population when my grandfather was born was about 1.4 billion.
  • The World population when my father was born was about 1.8 billion.
  • The World population when I was born was about 2.4 billion.
  • The World population when my daughter was born was about 3.7 billion.
  • The World population when my grandson was born was about 6.65 billion.
  • The World population today is about 6,854,834,551 (6.85 billion).

The United States population has increased by 616.9% since my grandfather was born, to some 309,620,000 people. The world population as a whole has grown 489.6% during that same time span from 1.4 billion to 6.85 billion. Are we feeling crowded yet? Do we see anything wrong with this picture? Do these observations elicit any concerns, other than how in the world are we going to manufacture enough cars for everybody to drive while texting absolute strangers intimate details of their daily lives and munching on a fast-food breakfast sandwich?

All of these people need to eat, have roofs over their heads, and get from one place to another. When my grandfather was born, people were still walking halfway across the country. This morning I drove to the post office about 1,100 feet down the road. Until my eleven year old pickup truck rusted into a pile of yard sale items from ten winters of road salt, we had two vehicles. The one we still have was the “family car”. The other one sat in the driveway most of the time, just there in case I wanted to go somewhere or didn’t feel like walking to the post office. We used to have three, but I sold the old sports car after I retired. The funny thing is, we aren’t “rich”. In fact, if I developed a hole in my pocket and lost my car wash quarters, we’d probably qualify for food stamps or at least come close. We have metamorphosed from a nation of producers to a nation of consumers, rapidly increasing in density, and the currently popular concept of “green” is little more than a veneer of temporary apparent propriety while we continue to consume and expand.

I wonder what observations my grandson will ponder when he is the age I am now, but of course I can no more visualize that time then my own grandfather could have visualized a world with “Smart Phones”, cars that park themselves, school kids carrying Kindles instead of textbooks, and so forth.

What has come to fascinate me, however is the way time appears to compress and become shorter the more of it that passes by. The farther away I find myself from days of my grandfather’s youth, the smaller that span of times seems to actually have been.


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