Wednesday 1 Jun, 2016

The Millennial Generation’s Role in the Clean Energy Revolution

This article is from EF’s Global Student Leaders Summit intern, Andrew T. The EF Global Student Leaders Summit Internship Program gives high school students a chance to deepen their experience at EF Summits by gaining valuable real-life skills through public speaking, journalism, social media and photography. We asked Andrew T. to interpret the Millennial generation’s role in the clean energy revolution.

My childhood is littered with memories of conversations with my grandparents, during which they explained to me just how appalled they were with my generation. They voiced their concerns outwardly at holiday dinners and passive-aggressively everywhere and anywhere else they could fit them in: “The Millennials don’t know how to work. All they care about is tasteless music and reality television.” The generalizations (regardless of how accurate they were – we do have a reality television problem) did the opposite of discourage me, though. In fact, it merely opened my eyes to the reality that all throughout history, the conflict between the generations’ social norms continuously changes the meaning of being a contributing member of society. Being a part of the Millennial generation means many things. But above all else, while each of us brings our own strengths to the table, we’re ultimately defined by our ability to establish unity and act as collaborating machines. In short, we’re good at working together – across genders, across technological platforms, and even across borders. This is undoubtedly due, in part, to the advancement in technology over the last several years. Our connectedness, collaborative skills, open-mindedness, and fixation of STEM has given us the ability to take on complex and new types of challenges, many of which mankind has never seen before. Solving climate change requires unity, teamwork, and open-mindedness. The Millennial generation is the generation that can solve this once and for all.

The largest barrier that climate activists like us face is the pervasive negative attitude towards changing the way we live, changing the way we produce, and changing the way we ultimately use or consume energy. People think, because of how climate change is often covered in the news, that resolving the issue would require unfavorable changes to our lifestyle. But this isn’t necessarily the case, and oftentimes these misconceptions have actually contributed to a massive false-consensus effect. Luckily for us, the Millenial generation is perfectly positioned to help dispel this notion, if we leverage our skills and interests appropriately. For instance, we’ve already seen some success in raising awareness about climate change through social media campaigns; public opinion on the topic of climate change has dramatically improved in the last few years, with just 16% not believing in it (down from 36% in 2010). Millennials’ ability to shift  public consensus on the topic, in such a short amount of time, is incredible. I only hope that we can continue to evolve our understanding of climate change, and our impact on the ecosystem from which we have taken from for so many centuries. It is only with this progressive perspective, and the willingness to take on this challenge, that we can hope to transition to a sustainable society.

Maggie M and Steven Chu group phot

At the heart of the mission of creating a sustainable future are the innovators and visionaries in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, who are continually improving upon what has already been done, while simultaneously developing new technologies that harness energy in ways we never before thought possible. Solving a complex problem like climate change requires a handful of skillsets that Millennials have mastered – like creativity, collaboration, and efficient execution – that have been honed because of the new ways that students of the Millennial generation are taught. The United States Department of Education has been heavily investing in STEM education ever since the Clinton administration, to  stay competitive with other leading global markets, and to give students a universal way of solving whatever issues they face. With this influx of interest in STEM- related career paths that can definitively impact the climate change conversation, I’m hopeful that the next breakthrough is right around the corner.

Solving the problem of climate change and tackling the forces that cause it may possibly be the most complex issues humanity has faced; it is not easy to pull off something like changing the way society uses and sees energy. But I am absolutely confident that the Millennial generation will be the generation to end the era of human-caused climate change. Although generational differences are very apparent among the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (Millennials), we all share the goal of doing absolutely everything possible to make sure the next generation is better off than before. For the world to become sustainable, we must be united. The Millennial generation is the most diverse in the United States’ history. This generation has the passion, tools and mindset necessary to combat not only climate change, but any problem our world faces. Confronted with divisions in almost every aspect of our lives, we are the generation that can unite, collaborate, and solve pressing issues in our new globalized economy.

Looking to inspire your students today to start becoming the leaders of tomorrow? Upcoming Summits will tackle Global Citizenship in a Changing World in Peru and The Future of Food in Italy.