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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Black

Who cares? Zillenials do.

It’s 2020 and it’s cool to care. Suddenly, actors that aren’t activists are considered out of touch, musicians or influencers that lack social awareness – passé, and this has all been dictated by a more politically and socially engaged millenial generation. One, which attends climate protests, supports the Black Lives Matter Movement, and has gone on strike in support of Greta Thunberg.

The cynic in me wonders whether this generation truly does care, or just wants to look like they do – optical social engagement, as opposed to making active steps to change society. Posting a statistic on carbon emissions in your Instagram story doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to have uncomfortable conversations in the real world. It does, however of course raise awareness for the issues and educate others, expanding the socially engaged community.

At ThisThat we wanted to find out how truly engaged millenials are in the climate crisis, whether they attend protests and what they feel is the most important issue of our time. There were a few surprising outcomes:

1. When we filtered the question “how would you rather contribute to the environment” by first eco warrior and then occasional eco supporter, both subsets ranked protesting last. First in the scoreboard was to change their ways, then raise awareness, followed by volunteer.

The cynic in me wonders whether this generation truly does care, or just wants to look like they do – a kind of optical social engagement

It’s interesting that protest ranked last, as often it’s the form of environmental engagement, which receives the most publicity and attention. Yet, the majority of votes felt changing your own behavior (96% of the time in fact when pitted against other options) as opposed to large scale protests – which in comparison only won 13% of the time – was considered the most valuable way to engage in the climate crisis.

2. When asked, “Have you attended a climate protest?” 39% answered yes, and 61% no.

The majority of participants have not attended protests, which is not particularly telling, as a lot of activism now plays out online. However when we filter and compare this response by eco warriors, versus eco supporters, out of the group, which do attend protests, the majority would not consider themselves eco- warriors. We can deduce therefore, that the level of engagement and dedication to the environment even as just a supporter, is relatively high.

3. 57% of participants felt the climate crisis was not their top concern

In a world currently harbouring a global pandemic, the ugly reality of systemic racism and many countries on the verge (or already) in recession, it’s in some ways unsurprising the climate crisis has taken a bit of a back seat. These issues are of course, heavily interlinked, see “climate justice is racial justice”, but that’s an issue for another article. It would be interesting to explore in a subsequent survey how climate change ranks amongst other pressing issues in the world order for Gen Z.

4. Priorities in the world of sustainability were the same, for both the occasional eco-supporter and the passionate eco-warrior.

Both protesters and non-protesters had the same priorities when asked to rank what aspect of the climate crisis needs the most attention. CO2 emissions was most important, then deforestation and lastly, plastic waste. The level of consciousness and awareness of climate issues across the board whether eco warrior or supporter is high. When we drill down further into these results, CO2 emissions in fact won 64% of the time, when pitted against other options in tournament mode of the survey. This tool allowed us to further analyse these results, building a richer comparison of the options, with plastic waste only winning 43% of the time against the other issues.

Final thoughts…

This survey painted an emboldening image of the future of sustainability. Your tree hugging vegan, a long standing member of the climate change community is of course dedicated to the cause, but it’s encouraging that the majority of this generation also considers themselves eco supporters. Climate change was not the top priority for a large swathe of those surveyed, considering young people are set to suffer most economically from the impact of corona virus, Brexit and have lost the most work during lockdown, it would be telling to find out what does matter most.

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