CCalifornia is facing a drought so devastating that some publications call it “biblical”. Colorado now has “years of fire“Instead of” fire seasons. ” Miami, which sees more dramatic hurricanes each year, is contemplating the construction of a huge boardwalk in one of the most picturesque tourist districts of the city to protect it from storm surge.
“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s really not something you can miss,” says Rachel Larrivee, 23, a Boston-based sustainability consultant. “For me, it doesn’t make sense to pursue a career, or life for that matter, in any other area.”
Larrivee is one of countless members of Generation Z, a generation that roughly encompasses young people under the age of 25, who are responding to the planet’s rapidly changing climate by compromising their lives to find a solution. Poll after poll shows that young people are not only incorporating new climate-conscious behaviors into their daily lives, but also in the long term. College administrators say a growing number of students are pursuing careers and degrees related to the environment that were once seen as irresponsible and romantic flights of fancy compared to more “stable” paths like business, medicine or law.
“I can’t imagine a career that isn’t related to just being a small part of a solution,” says Mimi Ausland, 25, founder of Free the Ocean, a company that aims to leverage small actions to remove plastic from the ocean. . .
Democrats in Washington hope to channel this energy through the proposed Civilian Climate Corps, a federal youth employment program that helps combat the climate crisis and conserve public lands. While funding for the New Deal-inspired program is tied to budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, youth activists say they hope it will help children fresh out of environmentally-related jobs on high school land. .
“The Civilian Climate Corps would actually allow a lot of young people to have a direct channel into these careers,” says Matt Ellis-Ramirez, 22, a Chicago-based volunteer for the youth-led environmental activist organization Sunrise Movement.
Yet young people are finding their way into these careers, with or without the support of the federal government. Brooke Hoese, a 24-year-old student from Texas pursuing a career in restoration ecology, is taking an interdisciplinary approach. They spent the summer working on a farm that practices regenerative agriculture, a method of restoring soil biodiversity, to contribute to a degree of integrative studies involving ecology, literature, and philosophy.
“My goal is to use the lens of literature and philosophy to study and hopefully help repair the relationship of human beings with our environment,” they say.
College campuses across the country are now finding new ways to help students like Hoese integrate climate studies across disciplines. The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, for example, launched the Sustainability across the entire curriculum program earlier this year to teach the university’s 20,000 undergraduates how their majors intersect with sustainability and the environment.
TO USC 2020 survey found that 64% of undergraduate students are “very interested” in sustainability on campus, while 27% are “interested.” They also practice what they preach: 33% of respondents say they participate in sustainability activities “on a daily basis” and 27% report weekly sustainability practices.
“In the past, the interest in the environment and sustainability was probably more of a niche interest, whereas now I see that students who are studying in many different fields on campus also have an interest in sustainability,” says Jill Sohm , Director of the Environment. USC study program. She says there has been an increase in student enrollment within her department, particularly over the past five to ten years.
Christopher Schlottmann, global curriculum coordinator for New York University’s environmental studies program, reports similar growth. And while the job market is tough across the board for new graduates, Schlottmann says having some sort of environmental degree under his belt is a bonus, not a hindrance.
“There is a general reputation that if you do good for the world, no one is going to pay you to do it. I don’t think that’s so accurate, ”he adds. “If you understand how climate change works, then a bank really should want to talk to you because they want to hedge your risk.”
the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics it projects job opportunities for environmental scientists and “related specialists” to grow 8% over the next 10 years, a rate much faster than growth in other industries. And the salary varies markedly above general median income levels – the 2020 median salary for environmental scientists is $ 73,230 per year, while environmental lawyers earns a median annual salary of $ 122,960. Urban farmers, a career that does not require a bachelor’s degree, earn approximately $ 71,160 a year.
“We grow up and they tell us that working in environmental fields is a dream that cannot be achieved. And there is no money, ”says Ellis-Ramirez. “But as we realize that the world we live in is not sustainable, and that corporations will stop making money if we lose the planet, then that funding will start to appear.”
Other young people note that a variety of industries now incorporate environmental issues into their work, giving young professionals the flexibility to pursue a variety of careers. “Things like sustainability aren’t fringe, they’re really common,” says Joel Hartter, director of the new graduate program in outdoor recreation economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “I think that translates into people seeing that they have career options.”
As attention to the environment increases, so does Gen Z’s awareness of how the climate crisis and pollution disproportionately harm underserved communities.
“Environmental problems are not just environmental problems, but rather a way to help address other problems in society,” says 23-year-old Brooke Majewski, a recent college graduate who works at a company that helps companies achieve your sustainability goals. “It’s about finding solutions for the planet we find ourselves on, but it’s also about finding solutions for the people who are most negatively affected by climate change.”
Surveys indicate that changing attitudes toward crisis often fall along generational lines. TO 2021 Pew Research The report found that Gen Z is overwhelmingly concerned about climate change: 76% of them say it is one of their biggest social concerns, while 37% make it their top concern.
According to Pew, 32% of Gen Z respondents have participated in at least one major environmental action in the past year, such as donation, volunteering, attending a rally or contacting an elected official. In contrast, 23% of Generation X and 21% of baby boomers reported participating in such action in the past year.
“I decided to dedicate myself to this industry because I believe that I belong to the first generation that knows to what extent climate change represents an existential threat to life on Earth, and also the last generation that could do something about it.” says Larrivee, the Boston-based environmental consultant.
Solutions for the planet’s bleak environmental future are within our grasp thanks in large part to this army of young people flooding universities, job fairs, and interview rooms with a clear trust in science, politics, and each other. This enthusiasm is historically unprecedented, says Schlottman.
“This is not a preset problem with a preset solution,” he says. But “their hearts are in the right place and their minds are very close in the right place as well.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism