Home Political science Sustainability of Agro-Food and Natural Resource Systems in the Mediterranean Basin
Trusting the Millennial Generation
With more than 3 billion people worldwide under the age of 24, nine in ten of whom come from developing countries, the so-called Millennials are the largest youth generation to date. They are also the most educated and the best positioned to seize the movement-building and communication opportunities found on the Internet. (See Chapter 5.) Although the spread of English as the world's lingua franca has its own drawbacks and limitations, it allows for much easier cross-cultural collaboration than ever before.
All of these advantages can, and must, be put at the service of sustainability—yet there is still a long way to go. With its many imperfections, the youth climate movement is representative of this. Mutual incomprehension persists between those who are still active within the climate talks and those who have decided to wage an even more challenging battle against the fossil fuel industry. Despite vigorous efforts, the movement is not enlarging to the developing world as quickly as it should. And while young people are effectively making the ethical case for fossil-free societies, they have yet to be equally convincing when showing the many advantages of fossil-free lives. Nevertheless, the world's youth could become a key game changer in favor of environmental progress, if they manage to strike a balance between uncompromising denunciation and a more solutions-oriented approach, to create stronger connections across borders, and to make better use of their diversity of methods and targets.
Yet for all their great qualities and passion, young generations can go only so far in standing up for themselves, their descendants, and the planet. By definition, they are resource-constrained and have little access to media or political power. Legal texts, ombudspersons, futures councils, or ethically sound discount rates can help give them more weight in the balance, but these measures will be effective only if the overall perception of the young and unborn changes as well. For now, humanity's behavior brings to mind, in many ways, Groucho Marx's famous quip: “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” It is striking to observe how much even the best-intentioned people like to speak in favor of the young, but how little they really stop to listen to what young people might have to say.
When Nelson Mandela passed away in December 2013, many of his most inspirational quotes resurfaced on social media. It cannot be a coincidence that one in particular spread so quickly among young environmentalists: “Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that generation.” In the face of growing ecological threats, but also unprecedented opportunities for change, the Millennials have little choice but to be great. In rapidly increasing numbers, they are trying to make the best of the diffi hand that they have been dealt. They will do it more, and they can do it better. But they should receive all the help and appreciation they need.
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