Which generation is greener?

view-oct-sun-059It was April 22, 1970, and I was so envious of my friend. Warm buttery sunshine flowed from a mostly cloudless sky, and the breeze was just a gentle brush of air. Basically a picture perfect day in the small college town in the middle of the Illinois prairie. And I was stuck in the confines of a brick and concrete high school while my friend had joined a group from Illinois State University outside. All my parents had to do was sign a form permitting me to go, but my mother didn’t think it was wise for me to be mingling with the much older college students.

My friend came back to school that afternoon wearing her swingy hippy-style printed caftan top that complemented the faint reddish glow on her arms and face from the sun her skin absorbed during the march out to the edge of town, where they planted the symbolic tree. She friend was probably more excited about being out of school and getting the first blush of a summer suntan than the importance of involvement in the first Earth Day celebration. Still ask almost any Baby Boomer back in the seventies and the preserving the natural environment was a favorite cause, on a similar footing to halting the war in Vietnam.

Often my generation is criticized for global warming and other damage to the environment that has occurred over the past fifty years. It is true that Baby Boomers have become less concerned about the earth, as they became more concerned about energy to run the new technological advances. However, 60% of current Baby Boomers agree with 71% of Millennials in saying that we should development of alternative energy sources that are less polluting rather than expanding exploration of oil, coal and natural gas. It is the majority of the Silent generation that preferred not looking for alternative sources of energy that have directed much of our emphasis in drilling oil in the past. [1]

As a look back on my teenage years I realize the newly heightened interest in preserving what the earth, separated the Boomers from those that that the earth had plenty to offer with little impact on our environment. I am a little worried that the percentage of Millennials who are interested being active to preserve the environment has decreased by a third, compared to the Baby Boomers when they were young.[2] As a generation ages, there is a tendency to become less idealistic and less involved in causes they believe in. Currently there is a much smaller number of Millennials actively concerned with the environment than there were among my peers when I was young. However there is some hope; the most recent generation has grown up with recycling, distrust of excessive pesticides and appreciation for cars that use less gas as part of their everyday life. Finally, I realize that many Millennials are bummed about the fact that they will have a lower standard of living than their parents, but this is actually a good thing for the environment.

Photo by S.L. Listman

[1] http://www.people-press.org/2011/11/03/section-8-domestic-and-foreign-policy-views/ “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election, Section 8: Domestic and Foreign Policy Views“ Pew Research Center, November 3, 2011
[2] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/fame-giving.aspx “Recent Generations Focus More on Fame, Money Than Giving Back” American Psychological Association, March 15, 2012

 

 

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