My mother likes to watch classic movies on TV. She says it's easy to tell the era in which a movie was made. In the old movies, everyone smoked, and no one had sex. In new movies, everyone has sex, and no one smokes.
I take some comfort from that when I despair over the environment. People in the western world used to think of smoking as a sophisticated activity, but they no longer do. Few of my friends smoke and, of those who do, most would love to give it up. They carry on smoking because, by their own admission, they are addicted to nicotine.
I am hopeful that, over time, cultural attitudes towards ecologically devastating activities will shift too. I am feeling guilty because I'll soon be flying from Canada to Southern Africa to participate in a family reunion to celebrate my mother's eightieth birthday.
The good news is that I'm feeling uncomfortable. It's a sign that I have some awareness of the harmful effects of air travel on the environment. Carbon emissions from jet aircraft are staggering. A few years ago, I wouldn't have given the environmental implications of this trip a second thought.
Now I am re-thinking destinations I had wanted to visit in future and how I will reach them. I feel much more inclined to stay closer to my (admittedly beautiful) home. When I do travel, I will be more inclined to use surface transit.
Something that is helping me to feel connected with distant family members and friends without flying to them is Skype. With webcams connected to our computers, or built into them, we can chat, even if we're separated by thousands of miles. I particularly have enjoyed long conversations with my brother in Australia.
As for our current movies, I will refrain from speculating what it is about them that people of the future will find noteworthy.