Imploring Millennials to Solve Climate Change

Millennial Generation: teens and twenty-somethings who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium (Pew Research Center)

It’s not about the paychecks anymore.

“Millennials want to work for purposeful companies,” commented Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT, a multinational telecommunications services company, during the second day of the 2014 Social Good Summit.

There is a shift in consumer behavior, practiced by Millennials, to help lower carbon demands and create a “new normal” for sustainability. It is unclear as to the definition of the “new normal” because that is up to how Millennials will shape sustainability in the coming decades.

For Baby Boomers, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, they spent years rallying for climate action. When asked about what they expect from the Climate Summit to be held at the United Nations on September 23rd, the response was filled with frustration.

“It bothers me that there will be pious rhetoric instead of action,” responded Bill McKibben.

“Nothing we say to them, they do not know,” responded Kumi Naidoo.

For 25 years, scientists have warned about climate change and the devastating effects of rapid rising rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The sentiment of the Baby Boomers is that the governments participating at the United Nations had 25 years to respond. But the power of the fossil fuel industry in governments prevented climate action. For Mr. Naidoo, “the time for words is over.”

During the People’s Climate March on September 21st, over 300,000 concerned citizens made up of Baby Boomers and Millennials took to the streets demanding climate action from government officials and the United Nations. Mr. McKibben believes that “if there are enough pissed off people, leaders will fear us as much as they fear the fossil fuel industry. That would be the moment that change happens.”

Change is happening, with Millennials leading the way. As youth unemployment rises, there is a stir for social entrepreneurship. Working for the “greater good” is a philosophy being integrated into business plans. Youths are using technology in innovative ways to spread information, to save lives in the public health field, to track their impact on this planet, to bridge cultures and societies surrounding one cause: the survival of humanity.

“Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, Senior Scientist at Conservation International. Throughout human history, through devastating wars and human development, nature had been taken advantage of and abused. However, nature is resilient. Planet Earth will still exist long after humanity dies out. Climate action is not about saving the planet, it’s about saving humanity, and Millennials understand this and are doing something about it.

If Mahatma Gandhi was right, then the Millennials are on their way to save humanity: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

This blog post was written for the 2014 United Nations Association of USA Blogger Fellowship.

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