Are Today's Young Adults More Committed to Narcissism Than Environmentalism?

YoAmes/CC BY 2.0. Stirring the pot.

A just-reported review of historic polls corroborates another one of my boomer centric theories: that many if not most young Treehugger readers didn't bother to vote in the last mid-term election. If this were true, I felt, they should shoulder much of the blame for the anti-environmental political narrative led by the US Congress and Republican presidential candidates. I had no hard data to back up this idea; but, my own anecdotal observations* led me to toss out a definition for neo-environmentalism in a recent post.

It was good bait for comments.

Neo-environmentalist definition.
1. a US citizen who considers him/herself to be "green" and yet, while of voting age, is not registered to vote and/or did not vote in the mid-term election that brought Tea Party politics to the fore.

2. does not realize that being apolitical is a political act

3. thinks lifestyle change will do the job.

Now, the data are compiled. Narcissism indeed floats the Millennial generation cigar boat.

Associated Press reports in Study: Young people not so 'green' after all that fewer Millennials vote and as many of them purposefully toss recyclables in the trash as faithfully recycle (in the 5% range).

...an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources - and often less civic-minded overall - than their elders were when they were young.

City life isolates from environmental values
Also from the AP story:

A lot of young people also simply don't spend that much time exploring nature, said Beth Christensen, a professor who heads the environmental studies program at Adelphi University on New York's Long Island.

When she attended Rutgers University in the 1980s, she said it was unusual to find a fellow student who hadn't hiked and spent time in the woods.

"Now a lot of these students have very little experience with the unpaved world," Christensen said.


But they're giving up on a lot more.
Based on two longstanding national surveys of high school seniors and college freshmen, Twenge and her colleagues found a decline, over the last four decades, in young people's trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.

Steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment, and taking personal action to save it.

Update on the I-Factor & F-Factor.
It doesn't help that over the last 40 years there have been so many millions of immigrants entering the US from nations with poor or no democratic (voting) traditions and where wilderness, icon of nature and last refuge of mega-fauna, largely eradicated: trees cut and birds and mammals all shot for the pot.

There are no memories of lovely national parks where these new citizens came from, no Earth Day traditions to inspire children with.

Call me politically tone deaf or biased if you want, but these things have to play a role in creating the attitudes detected in this review of poll results over time. (Show me the data that indicate otherwise and I'll be the first to write about it here - I promise.)

Lastly, it certainly does not help that a quarter of the citizenry gets it's ideas on public policy from Fox News and right wing talk radio. This demographic has had 20 years of indoctrination into the irrational belief that environmental protection and all regulatory systems are bad. It is the misery of Libertarianism. Likely, this is the most important factor of any mentioned in this post.

Update #2 - on the Abs-factor.
Sorry I forgot to include this in the original post but I must add now it because it is such an emblematic story.

Enroute to my last poll watching occasion - at the mid-term election which brought Tea Party Madness to the USA - I made a point of driving by the local workout gym. (This was around 7:30am, which would be before work for most.) There were like 50 Exercycles and Elypticals and Treadmills churning. Abs prominence versus voting. They had made their choice.

Explanatory note.
*As I often do door to door canvassing for candidates, help with get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns, and assist with election poll tending, it has become fairly obvious to me that young people in my area seldom vote. And there are plenty of community and 4-year colleges in my district.

Tags: Activism | United States

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