40% of young people somewhat or strongly agree with the idea that “the so-called ecological crisis of humanity is greatly exaggerated.” A perception that has increased by 10 percent since 2005. More than half of people between 15 and 29 years old think that “there is more time to act” about problems that affect the environment. This is shown in the Youth and Environment report, published by the Youth Observatory of the SM Foundation, presented on the eve of World Environmental Education Day, January 26, after surveying 1,500 residents of Spain located within that age group.
On the other hand, 47% of young people consider that the battle to save the environment is lost: “Whatever we do.” They believe that “ecological collapse” is inevitable. A pessimistic vision about the future of humanity, especially in the long term, prevails among these people. Emotions expressed about environmental problems are often characterized by helplessness, fear, and sadness.
The youth’s concern is indiscriminate, that is, directed at the state of environmental degradation in general rather than at specific problems. However, 86.2% are very concerned about global warming, and 82% demand more training on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and consumption in educational centers, as half admit not knowing the environmental impact of the purchases they make. . Currently, most are willing to give up on unsustainable home delivery products or services. On the contrary, they are reluctant to stop traveling by plane or not using their private car.40% of young people believe that the ecological crisis is exaggerated
72% of young people hold the idea that “we cannot abandon our consumer lifestyle to stop the ecological disaster,” but 61% think that if everyone has their level of commitment to the environment, the problem can be solved.
Due to the ambiguity of the report’s results, one of the study’s researchers, Juan María González-Anleo, expressed the opinion that children think they know more than they do: “The biggest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. , said Stephen W. Hawking.”
Ariana Pérez, one of the coordinators of the study, recognized “many contradictions in the attitudes shown in the report.” However, he prefers to talk about different young people and raises three profiles in the face of climate change: those who deny, those who know, and those who don’t care.
The third generation of youth in Spain shows an honest profile of activism; for example, 48% claim to participate in environmental conservation activities. About 30% participated in demonstrations in favor of the environment, and about 40% assured that they would do so in the future. One in four young people say they vote for environmental parties.
Young people also show a good predisposition to buy sustainable fashion and ethically produced technology, although this practice is rare. 45% admitted to buying these products on some occasions, and approximately 30% admitted to doing so regularly. The study shows that economic capacity is a key factor in consumer habits and determines the purchase decision of most young people, although criteria such as whether the product is local, from a well-known brand, or organic are also influential.
The results show a high level of environmental awareness in the separation for the recycling of paper and cardboard, glass, and batteries. “These behaviors are more frequent among women, young people from the upper social classes, and people from the extreme left.”
Lack of confidence in political will
Big companies are recognized by most young people as the main ones responsible for the ecological crisis. The government and the European Union appear at the second level of responsibility, followed by people with large economic resources and the United Nations.
Supranational institutions such as the European Union or the United Nations are appreciated, even if shyly, as the only ones who cooperate in this global challenge, in addition to their generation. 73% agree with the idea that “politicians have no intention of implementing the agreements reached at major world summits.”
Many fear that the costs of the ecological transition will fall on the middle class and the most vulnerable groups. Two out of three respondents defended the idea that environmental taxes are aimed at the richest people and barely notice the most vulnerable groups.
Educating ecosocial competence
The study insists that in order to achieve a greater commitment to the fight against climate change, it is necessary to educate ecosocial competence because, in general, young people show a superficial and fragmented knowledge of this issue, so it is considered very important to develop. a broader conceptual map of the system of production, distribution, and consumption, as well as their own role within it. Therefore, they assume an irreplaceable role in the school.
Experts also emphasize the creation of global citizens with a deep environmental identity, considering that the behaviors of young people are strongly influenced by their closest environment, such as family, friends, or context in education, which ends up influencing their decisions.
Increasing the sense of self-efficacy among young people is one of the main challenges identified in the report: “It is necessary to strengthen the belief that they have a key and must role and that their effect is effective.”
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