Climate change is one of the greatest challenges currently facing humanity; it has aggravated water crises, drought, frequent wildfires, food shortages, weaker societal unity, hindered economic growth and increased security risks, inequality and poverty. But, ultimately, this is the issue of the Millennial Generation and how we deal with it now defines what will we be dealing with in the future.
There are around 13.8 million people who make up Millennial Generation in the United Kingdom. Across the pond, Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. Inherently, it is Millennials that will comprise 75 per cent of the work force in just ten years’ time.
Thus far, the physical and chemical effects of irresponsible human activities are being felt as various ecological hazards and as increased population health risks. The Global Footprint Network has estimated that we have far exceeded the Earth’s capacity to sustain our current levels of consumption. And yet, in a world of 9.6 billion expected by 2050, the challenges of growing supply to meet future demand are insurmountable. While world leaders and climate analysts negotiate over preventing the temperature rise to 1.5° degrees instead of 2° Celsius, Millennials have realized that the troubles of 2050 are already here and already ours.
Evidently, the world’s resources are being consumed unsustainably: all the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels builds up in the atmosphere – and will remain there for decades; meanwhile, the global meat market produces more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than transport. Sadly, that’s not where it ends: one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted, and at 2.8 trillion pounds, that’s enough sustenance to feed all the hungry people of the world. Not only does this digit translate as waste of the labour, but also it signifies a great loss of water, land and energy.
Products that we purchase cheap and squander come at a heavier price when environmental and social consequences are considered. With a rapidly growing world population we must mitigate and restore the capacities of our environment. And as one of the largest and most influential generations in history with a driving commerce force, one way to approach this goal is to strive for sustainable development through sustainable production and consumption.
The endorsement of choices that promote eco-efficiency and minimize waste and pollution is crucial for attaining socioeconomic development. That said, making consumption patterns more sustainable seems to be challenging for many young people because of the distorted perception of what ‘sustainable’ actually means.
Making sustainable choices does not require you to, for example, grow your own vegetables or to splash $90 on a Gwyneth Paltrow eco-fashion t-shirt. Avoiding wasteful heating, air-conditioning, and unnecessary use of electricity and water can go a long way. Replacing plastic bags with reusable bags, using organic foods and embracing low-meat diets, as well as supporting “sharing economy” businesses (such as Uber, AirBnB and Getaround), has the potential to meet the demand for services and products without accumulating waste or redundant consumption.
To make headway, we need to raise awareness of what is harmful to the environment. We need to make small but meaningful choices in our schools, universities and workplaces. We need our governments to understand that the efficiency of policies cannot be measured merely based on the country’s GDP. In fact, according to World Economic Forum, a failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change poses the greatest threat to world economy in 2016; it is likely to have a much severer impact on the globe than mass involuntary migration or an increase of weapons of mass destruction.
As the generation that, regrettably, had to grow up with the effects of a changing climate, we understand what’s at stake. Last year’s United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) was a major example of how Millennials are taking use of their own agency in the climate’s future; hundreds of young people were partaking as members of NGO representatives, delegations, and as part of various youth climate movements, convinced to tackle this issue with their shirt sleeves rolled up.
Whilst we are in the midst of series of geopolitical insecurities and instabilities, environmental issues could be the key factor in launching a dialogue between nations regardless of each country’s respective ideological and socio-religious stance. In a 2° Celsius warmer world, our ecosystem will face irreparable damage and, as a cumulative effect, affect the livelihood of millions, if not billions, of people across the globe. We do not need instant results; what we need is progress and collective social action. And all it requires is baby steps, starting today.
Photo Credits:Xavier Gallego Morell via Shutterstock