Competition between the U.S. and China has become a consistent presence on the international stage. Whether it’s in a heated discussion concerning human rights, a battle for the highest economic standing worldwide, or the intense struggle for gold at the recent London Olympics, these countries are constantly at odds with each other.
Yet among all the press coverage of tense China-U.S. relations, there’s little out there giving a Millennial point of view from a Chinese perspective. So when I came upon Shi Xiaoguang’s piece, “China’s Millennials: Get Rich or Save the Planet?”, I was intrigued by his refreshing portrayal of conscientious young people doing their best to clean up their polluted world. Xiaoguang writes, “We are pulled by two very different imperatives: the desire to keep our industrial base growing and our consumer sector flourishing, and the equally compelling need to protect the planet in the process.”
According to TIME coverage of a recent study by San Diego State psychology professor Dr. Jean Twenge, American Millennials don’t share all of Xiaoguang’s optimism. Using results from two surveys of young people spanning from 1966 to 2009, Twenge found that “interest in conserving energy and saving the environment has been steadily declining.” Approximately 33 percent of college-aged baby boomers said personal action and environmental involvement was important to them. 25 percent of Generation X agreed, while only 21 percent of Millennials surveyed answered the same. While these statistics sound discouraging (especially in comparison to Xiaoguang’s almost painfully idealistic assertions), TIME’s Aylin Zafar brought up an interesting point: “…considering the conditions in which Millennials grew up, is it that surprising?” Mark Potosnak, environmental science professor at DePaul University, agrees. “It’s not so much that they don’t think it’s important. They’re just worn out. It’s like poverty in a foreign country, you see the picture so many times, you become inured to it.”
Is it true? Have American Millennials become immune to talk of global warming, the destruction of the Ozone layer or the sight of polar ice caps melting? Has a feeling of security in a high quality of life made young Americans complacent in the issue of improving the state of the environment? Are young people taking the seemingly inevitable presence of climate change as a solid reason to give up on the planet entirely?
Dr. Twenge, author of Millennial-criticisms Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic, was once quoted proclaiming, “I hope that young people see these findings as a challenge rather than a criticism.” Although her “challenges” often depict Millennials as media-crazed and attention-starved, Twenge is right about one thing: We aren’t doing enough to convince ourselves that the planet is worth saving.
Shi Xiaoguang wrote that Chinese Millennials are “wrestling with choices (our) parents never had to make.” All Millennials are struggling with issues that they didn’t create. No matter where we live or where we were born, we’re of the same generation. Millennials are more than capable of conserving energy, recycling, and finding other small steps to help the environment. It’s time to take responsibility for the environmental issues we’ve inherited. The answer to critics like Twenge should be in unison: Bring it on, Professor.
Haley Samsel is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. She is a high school sophomore who lives in Plano, Texas, which gives her a pretty unique view (in her opinion) on politics and Millennial issues. Outside of the Millennial Report, Haley enjoys playing basketball, reading biographies and watching cooking competition shows, among other things.