What’s old is new again. Activists are still preaching the same old taglines of unsubstantiated fear and impending doom, recycling old predictions that passed their deadline without coming to fruition, something I’ll explore further in the third part of this series.
Extinctionclock.org, kind of the opposite of the headline-grabbing Extinction Rebellion, has been tracking various apocalyptic climate-related predictions made over the past few decades to test whether they came true or not. Spoiler alert: they have not.
The seemingly 24/7 news cycle of looming environmental calamity is creating division, uncertainty, and despair, and it’s affecting young people quite significantly.
If you think I’m exaggerating, being hyperbolic, or even flippant, consider this story that I was recently told by a friend.
While on a drive to go hiking in the majestic Rocky Mountains, the topic of the environment came up with a carload of preteens. They expressed the importance of environmental protection (positive) because without it, they believed that the world was going to end soon and there would be great suffering (negative).
They talked that they’re going to die within the next decade, and they’re hopeless. Even giving up on pursuing dreams and passions that may leave a lasting legacy that benefits humanity through their educational pursuits.
Obviously, as a parent, this concerned my friend who probed for further information.
The kids revealed that much of their knowledge on the topic was obtained via the Apple newsfeed on their phones. This surprised me because I assumed that most young people were getting info from Tik Tok or YouTube. However, even the kids don’t consider Tik Tok to be a trusted news source, and the YouTube videos they watch don’t talk about climate change, only about planting trees.
The world’s most famous climate activist, Greta Thunberg, appears to have more influence over adults than she does over young children. One of the kids had never heard of her, and the others knew of her but didn’t know much about what she stands for.
I was pleased to hear that the kids’ teachers are not taking a position on oil and gas and the environment. It was said that they don’t say much at all because they know we needs jobs but also the natural environment.
The one child who doesn’t read the news was not at all worried about the environment.
So, what did they want done? What were their solutions? They believe the government should stop funding big oil immediately and should, instead, invest money into renewables.
Fortunately, as an energy worker and professional engineer, my friend was able to have a conversation and dispel some of the kids’ concerns. They were quite worried during the first conversation, but after a respectful dialogue that included facts to counter some of their unfounded concerns based on incorrect information, the kids revealed they were less concerned during a follow-up discussion. The first conversation even changed their minds from feeling imminent doom to thinking that the world is not ending for at least another twenty-plus years.
To all the parents and adults who spend time with kids, it’s important to pay attention to the content they are consuming. It’s also imperative that we talk to them and to explain the facts so that they are not unnecessarily alarmed and anxious. There are enough issues for young people to be concerned about. Please don’t stoke the flames of fear but, rather, understand their concerns and make sure they are based on accurate information. You can alleviate the angst through conversations with your kids, as my friend effectively did.
Paralyzing young people with fear will not motivate them to engineer solutions to our environmental challenges, and we need all hands on deck, to use a phrase beloved by the green movement.