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Don’t expect Millennials to solve all your problems

Charlie Hodkinson-Ashford

It’s not easy being a Millennial.

Along with the rest of my generation, if you believe the hype, I am lazy, entitled, narcissistic and addicted to my smartphone. Meanwhile, I still somehow find the time to love sustainable products, refuse any job that doesn’t make a positive contribution to society, and generally be the last thing standing between the planet and Armageddon.

And now a group of companies including Coke, Unilever and Google have come together to launch Collectively.org, a new site aimed at engaging me on sustainability through Buzzfeed-style headlines about bus-riding dogs and urban beekeepers.

Generalising about young people is nothing new. But what may set Millennials apart from previous generations is the amount of wishful optimism that is simultaneously dumped at our feet. Millennials are going to solve climate change and create a more sustainable world for everyone – and all because you couldn’t? I thought we were supposed to be the naïve ones.

Unfortunately, us Millennials aren’t too different from all you old folks. The only thing setting us apart is that we’re due to experience more of the effects of climate change – the flooding, the heatwaves, the food and water shortages, the refugees – first-hand.

Too many people are apathetic about climate change, or too busy, or in denial. But maybe a deeper issue is a feeling of powerlessness – a sense that the odds are stacked against individual efforts to tackle climate change, and that wider, systemic change is needed. It’s something I saw a lot of last year, and something I was just as aware of among attendees of the Business for the Environment summit as I was at the People’s Climate March.

Companies are slowly coming round to the idea that they have a responsibility to join the fight against climate change, not just reduce their own emissions. But this shouldn’t just mean selling a few green products. How many of the companies trumpeting their green initiatives are lobbying for policy change, or even offering their employees a fossil-free pension? When policymakers meet in Paris later this year, they must feel the weight of big corporates behind them.

The race is on to change the world, before climate change gets there first. Businesses should be helping lead the way. Who knows, they might even get a few Millennials along for the ride.

Comments (2)

  1. Camilla says:

    Great article, I think you’re hitting on a topic that a lot of millennial are experiencing. I work in sustainability, I love it, I am a millennial. I go to a lot of talks where the conclusion is ‘engage millenials’. It is more than frustrating sitting listening to them. I think a lot of millenials are interested, but people need to stop shoving responsibility onto us and start helping us actually do something!

  2. Ben Simonton says:

    I like what you say, Charlie. As a man of science and also understanding the science of people and why they react the way they do to what management does and does not do, you are spot on. However, the biggest problem you face is the government my generation has created, one that is fast destroying the middle class and the great prosperity we had 50 years ago. Climate does change and man can insulate himself from it, but not control it. What we can control is whether or not there are enough jobs to go around and people trained to fill them. My generation has done a horrible job at that task and literally destroyed the prosperity and jobs we once had. In our selfish demand to have what we want, we have left you a national debt you will never be able to repay and left you with almost 50 million in modern food lines, otherwise known as on food stamps. These are problems our nation has not yet begun to address and doesn’t seem to recognize. There are those who know how to address these problems, but almost no one listens.

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