Can youth really save the planet?

We're always being told how the hope of the planet is our young people. The media bangs on to us aged folk that young people are much more aware of green issues, and won't make the same mistakes we did.

The most delicate term I can think of to describe this hypothesis is bullshit. (Good, organic stuff, bullshit.)

Have the people who spread this message ever seen a teenager? Amount of brain dedicated to self 100%. Amount of brain dedicated to the planet 0%. Just as one tiny example, every morning after my children go to school I have to go around the house turning off lights and electrical devices they've left on. Given the choice of walking, talking the bus or demanding a lift in a car they will go for the car every time. Time after time I have to retrieve recyclable materials they've just dumped in the bin. Of course it could be that my children are atypical teenagers - but I don't think so.

The reality is that we have been brainwashed by the media into thinking children are green. This is partly because we are always seeing a few token kids doing green things on the likes of Newsround and Blue Peter, and because schools (primary schools in particular) make a big thing of the green message, so the children will have done a project on recycling, and can spout the right message when interviewed for the TV news. 'Ah, they're the hope for the future,' simpers the newsreader.

No, they're not. Not without help. It's those of us with a good dose of middle age guilt who are most persuaded by the green message. If we really want youth to save the planet, we can't sit back and think 'They've got it, we're in safe hands.' We need to give them a loving shove in the right direction.

So Mr/Ms TV producer - next time you feel the urge to produce a piece showing how green the kids are, get real. For the planet's sake.


  1. Completely agree, Brian. Cleaning up after kids is a constant battle against the dark forces of entropy. And don't you think 'bullshit' is a bit extreme? Try 'chickenshit'. Chickens are easier to keep in the average suburban garden than bulls, are less dangerous, produce eggs, and their shit makes an ideal compost accelerant. Now there's green.

    But srsly, what strikes me about media types, as well as being gullible, as that they have such short memories (most being hardly more than kids themselves). Our parents' generation was a lot greener than we are. People drove their cars until they fell to bits, rather than buying new cars (especially not - gasp - those greenwashy Prius things). People walked more. People took their shopping home in trolley baskets or string bags. People think that plastic bags have been around for ever - but I am just old enough to remember their introduction, and the worries at the time about their (lack of) biodegradability. Whatever goes around, comes around.

  2. At least on the western side of the Atlantic, the "green" messages in school also turn out to be thunderingly superficial. "Don't litter" is the heart of most primary-school environmental education -- even though dumping a ton of residential garbage in the woods doesn't "harm the planet" any more than so much "natural" decaying biomass from fallen leaves. It's an aesthetic issue.

    The teachers don't want to bore the little dears with complex issues, but they do want to "do something about the environment," so they fall back on something simple with a vague application to the kids' own lives.

  3. I believe your article was vain, pathetic and extremely insulting to the worlds youth. You say that were are all about ourselves. This is simply untrue. Our school has a recycling program, has fundraisers for a shcool were building in Zambia and we support numerous other causes. Just because the teens in your life are self absorbed (which to an extent we all are) that gives you absolutely no right to judge us all. You have no idea of the lives we live and how we are given pressure from all sides. And if you still are convinced that were a bunch of good for nothings, why don't you try to change that instead of insulting and degrading us.

    And I must say, the adults of this world are doing no better environmentally than we are.

  4. I came very close to deleting your comment, Anonymous, but I believe in free speech, so am leaving in.

    You must learn to distinguish between a generic comment and a personal insult, which your comment is.

    This post is what is known as irony. Please look up the word.

  5. I am afraid I found the irony hard to find. We were all 'youth' once. I thought this ill thought out and insulting and the label 'irony' added post facto to excuse just being rude for rudeness sake. You are right of course that young people are not, by default, 'green', but then again, who is.

  6. The irony is not in the behaviour of youth per se, it is in the naive way that the media represent youth. The fault is primarily in the media - only a small percentage of youth actually label themselves as green.

    I really can't see where the rudeness is. Either you have no sense of humour, or you aren't old enough to appreciate what teenagers are really like.


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