Friday, March 16, 2012

"Being green" isn't a motivator

Young people a generation or two ago were more likely to be environmentally-conscious than the youngstas today... or so says a story at

"I was shocked," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. Shocked because all that propaganda about reduce-reuse-recycle doesn't seem to be hitting its mark, at least with a large part of the young population.

15 percent of "millennials" - that's apparently the nickname for Generation-X's kids - say they make no effort to save the environment. Compared with 8 percent of the next-older generation and 5 percent of those (us) idealistic baby-boomers. (Granted, that's just their own observation, and half the baby-boomers probably figure they're doing their part by recycling their aluminum cans or using those newfangled light bulbs.)

One possible explanation is that they've been saturated with the message to such a degree that they've just turned it off. Another is that they are confused by the ongoing debate... after all, many people say it's hardly settled. Another reasonable explanation is that more young folks sit inside at their screen and keyboard or whatever than previous generations, and they're just not that interested in outdoorsy stuff like "the environment." How pathetic would that be?!!

At Pennsylvania's Muhelnberg College, Richard Niesenbaum, a biology professor divides the student body up this way:
5-10% are committed environmentalists
5% are "anti-environment" (the punks who litter and don't recycle, etc.)
85-90% are willing to help, as long as they don't have to lead and it's not too inconvenient or expensive.

I imagine that's a pretty accurate reflection on the population as a whole.

I've shared my viewpoints about climate change before. And, a desire to be green is a motivating factor in my choice to ride a bike... just not too high on the list. I don't know if we are causing the earth to get warmer. I am confident that we're negatively affecting the environment with various forms of pollution... and by riding a bicycle I'm happy to be contributing a significantly lower share than most folks.

The "millennials" may not be very environmentally-conscious, but those in my circle of acquaintances are motivated by economic factors. (At least those who don't have Mommy and Daddy still pickin' up the tab.) Typically, they're trying to stretch a budget just like us old folks... perhaps more so in many cases. I suspect that $4 or $5 or $6 gas will be more of a motivator to get them out of their cars, than "being green" ever could be.

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