This is a guest blog post written by Nassy Avramidis, Junior Partner at Jeffrey Hollender Partners
The other day, I threw a paper cup in the trash. There was no recycling bin in the vicinity and I was in a rush. Normally I am pretty conscious of the environment, but there are times when I slip up, and the guilt can be somewhat overwhelming. A lot of us, especially in my generation (the “Millennials”) carry around a specific feeling of guilt when it comes to shirking our environmental responsibilities.
Responsibilities. That word carries a lot of weight. Is my generation responsible for the current environmental crisis? I’d argue not totally – after all, we didn’t design the destructive system we were born into, but we are perpetuating it. Are we responsible for curbing this crisis? Yes, we are.
Millennials are the subject of a lot of chatter these days: What kind of consumers are we? Do we care about others or just ourselves? What impact does social media have on our lives, and what about our future? A new batch of surveys recently came out that basically concluded that Millennials care about the destruction of the environment, but not enough to actually do something about it. I want to argue that on a very basic level, my generation does care about the environment but has a tough time doing something about it for two reasons. One, confusion. Two, we feel our actions are meaningless, in other words, we feel helpless.
We are confused about and lack understanding of how to do better. We are confused and overwhelmed with the amount of information we are bombarded with each day about GMOs in food, chemicals in this, oil spills here, CO2 emissions out of control, methane leaks and tar sand pipeline construction, all leading to the grand destruction of the planet. At a certain point, this overload of information we obtain from various sources starts to dull the senses and we may start to tune out the negative information. What we can do, we do. What we don’t know how to do, we won’t, and if it’s too much to handle, we’ll tune it out and go about our lives. Knowledge is great, and being aware of the situation we are in is extremely important, but can be tied to the feeling of helplessness that many of us suffer from.
Everyday we see images and read stories of tragic environmental destruction and evidence of accelerating climate change and we ask ourselves, how much could recycling one bottle really do in the grand scheme of things? Didn’t Exxon Mobile just pump millions of tons of CO2 in the air, and why are they still allowed to destroy our planet? We ask questions, but the only answer that we can deduce is that profit is more important than people and in essence, more important than our future. So if we accept the fact that the fossil fuel industry is still receiving favorable tax treatment and tax payer subsidies even, is it fair that my generation feels guilty when we leave the water running or when we can’t afford to buy an electric vehicle? We feel it – the guilt – but we also feel too helpless to do anything about it.
Small steps are great and every small amount each individual does will contribute to a better environment, but when we are witnessing industries destroying our earth literally before our eyes (thanks to Twitter and Facebook) we start to wonder why can’t they do something about it, don’t they have a responsibility as well? If they took on the responsibility, then maybe my generation will have the desire and ability to make big strides in treating our planet better.
Our confusion and our helplessness is something that can be fixed. My generation is not perfect, and I will not fully pass on the blame to others, but we must all play a part and all do our duty to ensure a sustainable future. Maybe we sometimes “pretend” to care about the environment, but we feel helpless to counter the huge problems we have inherited.