For people born since the mid '80s, environmental consciousness is second nature. And as the Millenial Generation begins to take on a power position in society, the "environment" will assume an even greater role in the politics of the age. That's the central tenet of a recent HuffPo piece by Steven Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute, who further argues that current methods of political polling fail to take growing eco awareness into account.
Cohen cites the results from a Gallup poll, released last week:
"For the fifth consecutive year, more Americans are interested in protecting economic growth than in protecting the environment when the two goals are at odds. This year's 48 percent to 43 percent split represents a relatively narrow advantage for the economy, similar to last year's reading. But the latest result contrasts with 2011, when a record-high 54 percent chose the economy as the higher priority."
The poll is fatally flawed, Cohen argues, because it regards economic growth and environmental quality as mutually exclusive, which, of course, they are not. A healthy environment is a key source of economic well-being. Further, the report fails to acknowledge that young people between the ages of 18 and 29 favor the environment over economic growth by 49 percent to 45 percent.
"My sense is that many young people have a deep fear that the planet they will inherit from the rest of us may be damaged beyond repair," writes Cohen. "They do not necessarily see its repair as a function of government, especially our national government. Instead, they are looking for change at the community and municipal level. The fact that young people are moving away from suburbs and back to cities is in part a rejection of a lifestyle that they suspect may not be sustainable. The cars, lawns, and costs of cooling and heating large suburban homes are replaced by biking, walking, mass transit and smaller apartments where heating and cooling costs tend to be lower."
Calling Millenials "the Sustainability Generation," then, makes sense. Young people have grown up with issues about the environment and sustainability at the center of the policy agenda. Over the next decade, as Millenials come to power, sustainability will take on an even more central role. The powers that be would be smart to acknowledge this fact.
It's an interesting piece, and we agree on all counts. Read it here.
Photo via Alice Axinder