A recent article describes a study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology describes the result of a study concluding that today’s young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young. The findings go against the widespread belief that environmental issues have hit home with today’s young adults, known as Millennials, who have grown up amid climate change discussion and the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.” The environment is often listed among top concerns of young voters.
Based on two longstanding national surveys of high school seniors and college freshmen, Twenge and her colleagues found a decline, over the last four decades, in young people’s trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.
Steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment, and taking personal action to save it.
Of particular concern to those of us concerned with the decline of the world’s coral reefs, the article also quoted Mark Potosnak, an environmental science professor at DePaul University in Chicago, who has noticed an increase in skepticism — or confusion — about climate change among his students as the national debate has heightened. That leads to fatigue, he said.
“It’s not so much that they don’t think it’s important. They’re just worn out,” Potosnak said. “It’s like poverty in a foreign country. You see the picture so many times, you become inured to it.”