A bogus generational war over the climate crisis has distorted public thinking and political strategy, when in reality older generations are just as preoccupied with the issue as younger ones, according to new research.
The idea that young people are ecological warriors fighting selfish older generations is a common trope in representations of the environmental movement. It has been fueled by instances such as Time magazine that named Greta Thunberg its person of the year in 2019, for being a “standard bearer in a generational battle.”
Stereotypes were further strengthened when Generation Z American singer Billie Eilish said: “Hopefully the adults and the elderly will start listening to us. [about the climate crisis]. Older people are going to die and they don’t really care if we die, but we don’t want to die yet. “
But a new UK study, Who Cares About Climate Change: Attitudes Across The Generations, has found that the generational divide on climate action is a myth, with almost no difference in opinions between generations on the importance of climate action, and they all say they are willing to make great sacrifices. to achieve this.
In fact, research found that older people are actually more likely than younger people to feel that acting in an environmentally conscious way will make a difference, with twice as many baby boomers boycotting a business in the past 12 months for environmental reasons than generation Z.
Professor Bobby Duffy, author of Generations: When You Are Born, Does It Shape Who You Are? He said the false conflict between generations over the climate crisis is “dangerous and destructive.” It had infiltrated, he said, into so many discussions about climate concern that it has become an accepted truth that young people are at war with older generations who are not only completely baffled by the future of the planet, but are also guilty of the current crisis. .
“Parents and grandparents care deeply about the legacy they are leaving for their children and grandchildren, not just their home or their jewelry, but the state of the planet. If we want a greener future, we must act together, uniting the generations, instead of trying to open an imaginary gap between them ”, he added.
The weighted study of 2,050 UK adults conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and New Scientist magazine found that roughly seven in 10 people across all generations surveyed said the climate crisis, loss of biodiversity and other Environmental problems were problems big enough to justify them. changes in people’s lifestyles.
But it was the younger generations, more than the older ones, the most fatalistic about the impact they could personally have in tackling the climate crisis.
Roughly a third of Gen Z (those under the age of 24) and millennials (those between the ages of 25 and 40) said there was no point in changing their behavior because “it won’t make a difference anyway.” This compared to 22% of Gen Xers (41-56) and 19% of baby boomers (57-75)
There was an even bigger gap between generations when it came to rejection of this idea: 61% of baby boomers disagreed with the claim that it was pointless to alter their behavior, compared to 41% of millennials.
Richard Webb, Executive Editor of New Scientist, said: “There has been a lot of talk about the attitude of different generations towards the pressing issues of the day, but the findings of this survey give policymakers something to think about ahead of the crucial climate summit of the Cop26. in Glasgow in November.
“Far from being an obsession of a few young activists, support for measures that put our lives on a more sustainable basis as we seek to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic has broad support across generations,” he added. “They could be a route to increase participation by groups increasingly disillusioned with politics.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism