In August, the Finnish broadcaster Yle commissioned a survey asking people between the ages of 15 and 29 to name the five things they are most worried about. The concern most frequently mentioned by the respondents was being able to make a living, and the second most frequently mentioned fear is war. Judging from the results, climate change is not a major concern for people in that age group. This is striking, since in a similar survey conducted in 2020, climate change was the biggest concern, and this was also evident from the results of the 2021 Youth Barometer survey.
Clearly, the world has changed since 2020. The effects of the coronavirus crisis that erupted that year are not even fully known yet. Before the restrictions put in place to tackle the pandemic had been fully lifted, the invasion of Ukraine began. This all happened very quickly, without anyone having had time to prepare for the worst. For too many students and young people, loneliness, financial worries and apprehensiveness about the future have cast an ever-present cloud over their lives.
But the climate crisis is real, and its effects can be seen all around us. The summers are getting hotter, virus outbreaks originating in different animal species have occurred around the world, and there is not enough clean water for everyone. Climate change does not get the media coverage it deserves, even though combating it would also prevent many other crises. To be sure, many companies and other organisations are keen to highlight environmental awareness as one of their values. However, there is a fear that such statements and actions are at best trivial and ineffectual, and at worst amount to little more than greenwashing. The situation couldn’t be plainer: we need to take real action.
Environmental crisis as a whole is a distressing subject, and people can become weary or pessimistic as the natural world we have always taken for granted crumbles around us. It’s not fair to blame young people for not fearing the climate crisis more than anything else right now. After all, given the fact that society is structured in such a way as to sanitise or even conceal environmental breakdown, why should young people pay much attention to it? In my view, the responsibility lies firmly with decision-makers and media representatives. When young people fail to see the urgency of the climate crisis, the older generations must step up to do what’s required of them. Moreover, young people should not be the only ones to take responsibility – the environment is everyone’s concern. The climate crisis is a generational issue, and young people in particular will bear the brunt of it. It cannot be left to young people alone.