Generation Z and environmental awareness

In my last blogpost titled “Should we give Gen Z some credit?” I explored some of the many areas of life in which the so-called Generation Z are much more aware than, perhaps, we older people were when we were teenagers. Here, I am going to pick one of the five or so areas that I listed and go a little deeper into it.

The environment is certainly a topic which everyone knows one or two things about; however, it can be argued that young people know more than adults when it comes to this crucial issue. Although young people do not read The Guardian or The Telegraph or listen to the BBC, they are exposed to the issue in the news about the environment. They learn through various subjects in school such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography and so on. I’m not at all into social media but I suspect teenagers also hear about the debate on climate change via social media platforms and YouTube. There is a focus on climate change and global temperature rise in the media at present. Surely, all young people in this part of the world have heard of the name Greta Thunberg – the Swedish teenager – who is the face of the environmental campaign. No one on planet is a better marketer for the course of the environment change and global warming than Greta and one of her phrases that I found very powerful was “Blah Blah Blah” as she mocked the politicians in a serious way during COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

I must not claim to be a saint when it comes to the issue of the environment, as I don’t think I’m doing anywhere near enough to reduce the negative contribution I make to global warming. I shamefully, like many adults, drive a gas guzzler and keep saying I’ll do something about it one day. Yes, I try not to drive much, but to walk and cycle at times, but I can still do more. My excuses range from I can’t afford an electric car to I live in a largely rural area, where it often snows and floods and all that Blah Blah Blah!

I often get reminded by my soon-to-be-fifteen teenage daughter about the impact I am making by driving a car. I’m not going to mention the fact that she often reminds me of what a polluter I am when I am serving one of my main purposes as a parental, which is to act as a taxi service and drive her to her friend’s place and all that.

As I write this, COP27 is taking place in Egypt and, in just the last two weeks, environmental campaigners, some of them teenagers, have been mounting a blockade on the M25 and other big roads. However, I’m not going to go into whether these environmentalists’ actions are justified or not, as this is not the point of this blogpost.

A lot has been written, quite justifiably, about how the tax system, government allocation of public funds and, more importantly, the borrowing and accumulation of huge debt that we will be leaving to our children and grandchildren to bear the burden of paying off in the future.

Despite my son often saying to me that I am too conservative on certain issues, and that I fail to understand that this is the 21st and not the 19th century, I have a lot of sympathy for the plight of young people.

I remain optimistic that they are growing in knowledge and awareness and are building up the skills they need to solve the problems that we are all creating and leaving for them to resolve.

I often remind my son and daughter of how privileged they are for living in this century, and also in a part of the world where they more or less take everything for granted. They usually tell me to accept it, as it’s not their fault that they were not born in the poorer parts of Africa, South America or India – which are most parts of those countries.

I am an optimist and I believe there is a bright future that lies ahead for young people. My main hope and prayer is that the future will be one in which there is a drastic reduction in the gap between the haves and have nots; I like to be hopeful that the wealthier countries will be much more generous and sincere in proactively promoting and encouraging good governance and a better quality of life in the poorer parts of the world.  The success of Information Technology has made people aware in all parts of the world of how others live.

What I am certain of, is that the status quo is not sustainable, as the chasm in income and quality of life, which is being made worse in the poorer parts of the world by behaviours in the richer parts, cannot prevail for too long.

I’d like to quote a phrase from Otto von Bismarck, who said “What we learn from history is that no one learns from history”.

Without diving too deep into geopolitics, the major events we are seeing before our eyes in various parts of the world at present are a testament to the notion of man failing to learn from the past. In this world, there is too much distrust and too much me, me, me, and less of them, us and all.

I am hopeful that, when they take charge in the future, young people’s awareness in the richer places of the quality of life in different parts of the world will prompt them to run the world better than it is at present. I’m speaking about doing so in a way that there is a much better quality of life for the overwhelming majority of people all over the world. This is a huge and extremely complex task, but I am optimistic.

In my next blogpost I will discuss one of the points I listed in my first blogpost in this series, which is how well young people are exposed to people of different cultures.

Please see here for the last blogpost – the  first in this series –