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Talking About My Generation

shutterstock_72608527I consider myself an environmentally minded individual. In undergraduate I was a member of NYPIRG where I worked on a dorm recycling campaign, and in graduate school I paddled deep into the Louisiana Bayou to help clean up trash swept in from the city by Hurricane Gustav. I do not expect my all my peers to feel the same way as me about the environment, but I was shocked to find that according to a new academic study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Millenials, the generation born after 1982 , are less environmentally conscious then their older counterparts (e.g. Baby boomers, GenXers).

The article, titled “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009″, was the product of Jean M. Twenge, and Elise C. Freeman of San Diego University and W. Keith Campbell of Georgia State University. The article was based on 40 years of surveys of high school seniors and college freshman. The surveys asked students a variety of questions addressing their life goals, values, and civic orientations. The surveys found a steep decline in the concern young people have towards the environment and the actions they take to protect it.  The survey found that 30% of Baby boomers (those born 1946-1961), thought that it was important to be involved in programs to clean up the environment, while only 21% of Millenials felt the same. 15 % of Millenials said they have never made an effort to help the environment compared to 8 percent of Gen Xers( those born 1962-1981), and only 5% of Baby Boomers. Millenials were also less likely to reduce their consumption of electricity and fuel.

Other time trends revealed by the study include:

  • Increase in importance of goals relating to extrinsic values (money, image, fame) and a decrease of importance of goals relating to intrinsic values (self-acceptance, affiliation, community)
  •  A rise in community service participation (probably related to a rise in community service requirements in high school)
  •  A decline in Civic orientation (e.g., interest in social problems, political participation, trust in government, taking action to help the environment and save energy) and slight decline in concern for others (e.g., empathy for out groups, charity donations, the importance of having a job worthwhile to society)

To many people, me included, these attitude and behavior trends may be upsetting. What will happen to the environment, and society as a whole, if each generation progressively finds the environment less important and continues to embrace extrinsic values over intrinsic values? Will these trends continue or will events like the 2007-2009 recession alter values trends?  The authors of the study are unsure as well, and only the future will tell us how these attitudes and behaviors will effect us all.

For the Complete article and study results visit:: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-ofp-twenge.pdf

Young People on Phone Via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

  • Jun 28th, 2012 at 08:49 | #1

    Modern youngsters are mostly computerized, they don’t care about what happens to the nature. They live, work and rest inside buildings. Trees, grass, air and water are so little important for them that it scares me. Maybe there should be some programs to teach them how to care, how to love Earth?

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