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Youth Perspectives

Youth Perspective: A Crisis of Confidence: Sustainability

Brianna Brand

25 Sep 2015

There is a growing consensus among older generations that they must right the wrongs that younger generations will face, particularly environmental issues. Parents do not wish to leave their children to deal with the unknown effects of climate change, waterways brimming with pharmaceuticals and pesticides, or an earth devoid of the abundant natural resources they enjoyed. Yet, to quote former President Jimmy Carter, it seems there is a “crisis of confidence” between good intentions and real action.

Cost comes into account as the elephant in the room and the major reason to object to change. Sustainability is perceived as too costly in terms of time, money, and public support. This mindset drags down confidence in making progress.

Therefore, perhaps it is time to introduce a new idea, one that has been resonating with the millennia generation:

Sustainability is an investment, not a cost.

Among the millennial generation, one of the most widespread ideas for our society to contribute to sustainability is through solar power. Yet many from older generations look upon solar with disdain: it is unconventional and may involve a high initial cost. Among many businesses considering solar, there is a fear that consumers will be outraged and unwilling to pay a higher price. Therefore, conventional fuel with negative externalities predominates as the majority of our energy profile. But if we consider adopting solar power as an investment in a sustainable future, free from dependence on foreign oil and negative environmental impacts, as many from the millennial generation do, then this technology can become a significantly more widely implemented renewable energy option.

Another high priority of the millennial generation is biodiversity. We were raised alongside the plight of the polar bear, the horrors of the ivory trade, and the recovery of our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle. Others may view the perceived high costs of protection for endangered species, both public and private, as outrageous. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allotted approximately $170 million a year to manage imperiled plants and animals. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development was allotted about $212.5 million to contribute to biodiversity conservation programs. Hundreds of millions of dollars is a huge sum to spend when there are other prominent issues to consider, such as health care and national defense.

However, by reversing the argument, spending millions a year in conserving biodiversity is an investment in sustainability, not merely a monetary cost. Biodiversity provides crucial resiliency and ecosystem services, such as food, medicine, shelter, fuel, nutrient cycling, productivity, and climate control, that human society relies upon. Why wouldn’t we be willing to invest in biodiversity, which provides these key requirements for our future wellbeing?

The term ‘cost’ can imply stress and loss, whereas the goal of investing is often to exert effort over the long-term to achieve beneficial results. This directly aligns with the intention of sustainability: maintaining the necessary needs for human lives far into the future. By considering our actions towards sustainability as an investment instead of a cost, we can remove some of the negative stigma associated with it and truly begin making positive progress.

The millennial generation is on board: are you?

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