Most young people worry that the world is totally screwed, according to new survey

Originally published at: Most young people worry that the world is totally screwed, according to new survey | Boing Boing


Yeah the world is fucked but I don’t plan to leave anyone behind after me so there’s nothing to be anxious about it for.


You are only concerned for your own descendants? Or do you mean that you intend to kill everybody on the planet?


Not all?



Well their not wrong.


This is part of Uncle Gracchus’ standard valedictory advice to the nieces and nephews in my life as they head off to university, delivered over the meal of their choice: your generation has been handed a raw deal, but you now have the numbers and votes and smarts to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Get to it!

That’s the best I can do on hope and inspiration under these circumstances, and it’s still a hard sell. A few of them have told me they intend to follow my choice of not having kids, not really understanding that for me it was a combination of circumstances and lifestyle decisions that had little to do with an impending sense of planetary doom.

Child-free here, too, but I have plenty of young people I love and care about who I’d like to see living in a sustainable and equitable world free of sado-populist or authoritarian police-state governments. Also, the time frames being discussed about the outcomes of the climate emergency hitting those of us in the West are such that a Gen-Xer like myself will experience some of them on an on-going basis in old age (when I hope some of those young people will think well enough of me to check in now and again). So while I had a good run, I just can’t take that attitude.


I remember similar survey results from the 70s and 80s and 90s…


This is not meant to be dismissive or comparative, simply remembering what, if any thing we were still worried about when I was young. In the last decade of the Cold War, it was nuclear annihilation. The Day After and all that goodness. I remember people the generation before me worrying about being drafted. All things to do something about, hopefully we do something about this one.


At least in the USA, 80% of those 16-25yo are old enough to vote. Do they, or is this just a “sitting on the couch bitching about the olds” kind of existential concern?

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A lot of key differences between this crisis and that one though. Most importantly, the only thing required to avoid nuclear annihilation was for a relatively small number of key people to choose not to make a terrible decision that no one really wanted. There was never a sizable “pro-nuclear fallout” lobby channeling billions of dollars toward politicians who promised to reduce the earth to radioactive ash.

In the case of global warming the catastrophe is already here and is accelerating rapidly. Avoiding the consequences is already impossible, and avoiding even worse consequences will require a sustained, global effort to remake major portions of our society. So it’s a lot bigger challenge than convincing a couple heads of state to not push a big red button.

57% of American 18-34 year olds voted in 2020, a pretty sizable increase over historical voter turnout for that age group. So no, today’s young people aren’t less engaged in politics compared to their predecessors’ generations.


Yep. I know several smart, informed people in their twenties who have already decided not to have children, precisely because the world is going to shit, and they think it would be cruel to bring children into such a world.


“I don’t have children of my own therefore I see no reason to care what horrors happen to the planet after I’m gone” is every bit as monstrous a take as “I don’t have any family in [city/state/country] so I see no reason to care if all the people there suffer excruciating, preventable deaths.”


We can hope. Obviously, there are doubts when comparing 16-25 to 18-34 given the rather steep rise of voting with age that we’ve seen in the past.


My point is that young people today are more politically engaged than young people of the past so it’s absolutely unfair to frame the problem as “why don’t the young’uns do something about it then??”


My wife’s best friend called her recently at work in tears. The best friend was very concerned about her 16 year old son. My wife’s immediate response was “Is he cutting or self harming?” and the best friend was utterly freaked out asking how my wife knew. She knew because it was maybe one of last of the parents we knew with teenagers that we hadn’t heard that from yet. I seriously don’t know anyone with teenagers that doesn’t have a similar story.


Are they? Please don’t assume that my question was rhetorical. My keyhole views from 1968-1974 and 2015-2020 of the same age group would argue the opposite [1][2] but I’ll be the first to admit that the small-N observations in both cases are a long way from compelling.

[1] E.g. $HERSELF was very active back when, including being part of the demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention.
[1] More recently, I spent the latter interval as a returning student with a group of very, very sharp 18-25 yo students and our voter registration drives in 2016 and 2018 were less than overwhelming.

How about other people’s kids? Or humanity in general? A bridge too far?


It is indeed easier to get young people involved in political protest when they’re facing the immediate and highly likely threat of being drafted to fight in an unpopular war but obviously that period was a bit of an outlier in terms of youth engagement in politics.


I think that interpretation is a bit harsh. Weltschmerz in the face of preventable-but-somehow-zero-effort-in-preventing-it apocalypse is perfectly understandable.

Also, by not having children he’s already done more to reduce his downstream carbon footprint than the most powerful nations on Earth.

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