Climate change is the most complex, far-reaching, and perilous sustainability challenge we have ever faced, and its impacts will span centuries. What does this issue look like through the eyes of those who have been learning about climate change since primary school? What actions do those who will be most impacted by climate change want to see? Most importantly, what values motivate and inspire the climate change generation?
The Climate Change Generation
According to recent reporting from the Pew Research Center, the current generations break down as:
• 1928-1945: The Silent Generation (ages 74-91)
• 1946-1964: Baby Boomers (ages 55-73)
• 1965-1980: Generation X (ages 39-54)
• 1981-1996: Millennials (ages 23-38)
• 1997 and beyond: Generation Z (ages 22 and under)
Generations have also been categorized by the advances in technology when they’re coming of age, as well as the social issues and global crises that shaped their formative years: World War II, Vietnam, Civil Rights, AIDS/HIV, 9/11, school shootings, the 2008 financial crisis. And now climate change.
“The climate change generation is a generation of young people born into a warming world, who will be alive to see which climate model scenario plays out, and who have spent—and will spend—essentially our entire adult lives fighting for a just and stable future,” says Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. He goes on to point out that many of the younger members of the “climate change generation” will outlive the climate projections that scientists have created through 2100.
With the extremely high likelihood that members of the Millennial and Gen Z generations will witness the most severe impacts of climate change within their lifetime, and given the uncertainty about what the next two decades will bring, it’s no wonder why today’s younger Americans are the most worried about global warming. Zach Fayer, an alumni of Manomet’s U360 business sustainability college program, explains succinctly: “Members of my generation care about climate change because we’re going to live through it.”
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 70% of Americans 18-34 worry about global warming, compared to 56% of those over 55.“Our generation has been exposed to [the effects of climate change] and have been the ones to initiate change in many ways,” reflects Chris Murphy, another U360 alumni. “But I think there’s still a lot of work to be done from the actions of past generations that have trickled down to ours. I certainly think reversing the effects of climate change is a growing concern for our generation.”