CAN GEN Z REVERSE THE MELTDOWN?
We like to pretend our Earth will magically bounce back to health after we recycle a single straw. We like to pretend that, after inconveniencing ourselves to throw out our litter, we become a green-thumbed nature deity worthy of immense respect. We pretend that, after driving our planet to the brink of extinction, it will turn itself back and continue to support our species, no matter how much we hurt it.
We ignore the fact that 4 out of the 5 mass extinctions that wiped Earth’s slate clean were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gases, the sole exception to this list of eradications being the asteroid event that killed the dinosaurs. We ignore the fact that the most devastating climate change extinction that reset the planetary clock before our time killed 97% of all life.
Even if we blatantly choose to ignore it, our society has already subconsciously adopted the apocalyptic theme in hundreds of movies and books, a faint ‘what-if’ that shows all of our latent, subliminal worries of what may be.
Even Hollywood, a place known for its capability to distort rather serious topics into a 90-minute film tailored to simply entertain, has shed some light on our possible future. Mad Max, Geostorm and The Day After Tomorrow all have a common theme- their protagonists fighting for survival and against the antagonists in a post-apocalyptic world. An apocalypse may be fiction today, but can most definitely become our reality if we continue to overlook the care of our planet.
Overlooked it went before, previous generations wrongfully believing that Earth’s resources were infinite, wrongfully putting the possible consequences of their actions and the regard for the future in their hindsight. Ultimately, this set in motion a series of events that will affect us and more generations to come, leaving us with only 11 years to prevent irreversible climate damage.
Now, to come to the topic of the millions of individuals entrusted with the future of our planet- Generation Z, the cohort of humans born between 1996 and the early 2010s. Generally speaking, individuals of Generation Z tend to be more independent and more aware of global issues, and they view their world through lenses healthily doused with skepticism— a factor their Generation X antecedents would appreciate, but a trait that group-minded baby boomers/millennials may misunderstand.
Studies proved that members of Generation Z continuously gather new knowledge and immediately learn about unfamiliar topics, so their views on flaws and faults in our society are often carefully shaped through both online and ‘offline’ sources. This nihilistic generation was raised amidst huge technological advances, hit dystopian novels, heinous terrorist attacks and groundbreaking social justice actions- and have always known to look for several angles to one concept to avoid misinterpretation. They have a slight lack of hope that none of the other generations have- and in place of the belief that someone else will solve their problems, they have the drive to take the action themselves- and that’s what sets them out the most.
They are known as the most ethnically and racially diverse compared to their predecessors. Gen Z has been featured in dozens of articles in various newspapers, blogs, and has been written about several times in the Forbes magazine, popping up in a variety of topics. They have been plastered all over activism news, millions of them advocating for social justices with a revolutionary voice harsher and more demanding than that of previous generations.
Clearly, they have displayed their capability of making their words cut out over the din- some examples include the school walkout protest for climate action in September 2019, the vacant showing at the Trump Rally in May, the thousands of fairy comments that spooked the American president into hiding in a bunker, and the many, many incidents happening over social media and at protests. The overflow of BLM blackout Tuesday posts, the online outrage about the genocides in China, the incredibly vehement (and sometimes dangerous/destructive) moves pulled at racial justice protests- which include throwing tear gas back into police lines, body slamming aggressive cops, and the defacing of dozens of racist statues across the nations- just tell the world how ardent and impassioned the next contemporaries are.
A study featured in an article in the Forbes Magazine, done by the Ipsos MORI (on behalf of Amnesty International), questioned the nominal Generation Z on their opinion on the current state of human rights locally and internationally and on what issues they feel is most important.
All in all, 57% of respondents chose global warming/climate change as the most important issue set to plague the second halves of their lives. In the social issues section of the survey, 36% of young respondents chose corruption as one of the most prominent issues at a national level, 22% chose violence against women, and 31% chose terrorism.
The above statistics show that more than half the young generation is worried about climate change overruling their adulthood, and more than a third of Generation Z is equally worried about social issues that grow gaps in our civilization.
So now to string the two together and to ask and answer the most pressing question: Can Generation Z reverse the climate meltdown our planet is currently on the brink of experiencing? Clearly, this generation has the brains- as proved by several studies and even blatantly admitted in newspapers like the Globe and Mail, the guts- as proved by the escalating protests and the growing number of kids standing against oppression, and the sheer numbers to accomplish such a feat, but have we marched into war a bit too late?
A study published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne, Australia (an independent research organization focused on climate policy) claimed that human civilization was set to deteriorate by 2050 if further climate action was not taken. Lethal heat waves, rising ocean waters leading to the destruction and submerging of coastal cities, climate-fueled plagues, and widespread displacement for nearly a billion people are only some possible catastrophes waiting below the edge we drive our Earth towards.
The thawing of Arctic permafrost could release huge amounts of 2000-year old methane into the atmosphere, as stated by a NASA study conducted in 2018, and could speed up global warming by immense amounts. A massive crack in the Antarctic ice shelf discovered in 2017 threatens to break off a huge part of the shelf into the ocean. Temperatures continue to break records, and natural and man-made disasters continue to ravage towns.
Even though the future looks bleak, we may still have a chance. Strong-willed, young revolutionaries are all rising in the face of disaster, some of the most famous ones being 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, 11-year-old eco-blogger Hannah Alper, 23-year-old Pakistani female education activist Malala Yousafzai, 10-year-old human rights activist Sophie Cruz, and legendary motivational speaker Robby Novak, aka Kid President.
It’s not just ‘famous’ Gen Z’ers that are making a difference- everyday young citizens are also game-changers, their small actions setting forth huge numbers and huge new changes. According to a study by First Insight- featured in Bloomberg News- showed that 73% of consumers under 22 would willingly pay more for sustainable products, the majority of the respondents being Generation Z. Companies now rush to tailor their products to this new criteria in order to make the most profits out of the next legion of consumers. A similar conclusion was reached by a Nielsen study that showed that 62% of generation Z prefer to partake in sustainable retail practices. They also discovered that 59% of youngsters support upcycled items- items that are remade from recycled objects.
The numbers don’t lie, the next generation is going greener than ever before, and is making much, much more of a ruckus than the equanimous baby boomers. They worry about their futures, and this worry is what drives them to achieve much better stewardship than anyone ever before. They know that to change the world, they must unify their efforts in order to make a change.
Sure, the meltdown is looming on the horizon of our future, but the youth set to inherit the crumbling planet are arming themselves for the battle that was put off by older generations, hopefully managing to save not only the Earth for future generations, but also their adulthood in the process.