Today my 7-year-old can't take a bath without reliving the plot of "Crime and Punishment" because she believes her modest water consumption is knocking off Mother Earth.
Maybe children are confused about what "better" is supposed to mean, as well. We can forgive them, though, as they've been fed a steady diet of model-projection Armageddon their whole lives. One poll claims that 1 in 3 children ages 6 to 11 fears that the Earth will be destroyed by the time they grow up.
As for adults, we now can witness fits of schadenfreude over capitalism's "failure" every day -- as if a recession can undo centuries of prosperity. Some actually view the contraction as a positive recalibration of our economy, which is, in their minds, always running on "imagined" prosperity.
We can use less, they say. Less energy. Smaller houses. Fewer profits. Fewer vacations. ...
... Way to dream big!
One thing we've relearned recently is that "hope" can't be pinned to dependency, bureaucracy and demanding less. Thankfully.
It is silly to believe that the next generation magically will transform human nature and settle for less. Nor is there any historical precedent that leads us to believe the economy will shrink for good -- unless, of course, it is forced to.
This next generation almost certainly will live through a few glorious bubbles, followed by a few scary recessions. Yet just as certainly, they will live "better" lives than we do.