Our world today is a mixture of generations that are very different from one another. You have the elderly, who have lived their entire lives without the technology and amenities that define the 21st century. You have the parents, who have grown up in an environment much like their parents, only to be shocked into a whole new world. You then have the kids of the 80s and 90s, who have seen both worlds, but have had time to learn and adapt to the changing world. And then you have the children from the post millennial times, who take everything we have today around us for granted.
4 generations. 4 different worlds. Now, all of them have been thrown into a world that none of them fully understand. How are they living? What part are they playing, specifically with respect to the environment?
The two youngest generations hold the key to environment protection and sustainability.
The elderly are rigid in their beliefs. They lived their lives knowing clean air, thick tree cover and a whole lot of cycling. They have, and will still continue to believe that their way of living is better than today. My grandmother is a strong old woman who still prefers to walk 2 km to buy groceries or milk everyday and come back. She has slowly learnt the new ways of living, by using mobiles and travelling in cars, but I know she prefers the old way. She still prefers to sleep with no fan, and only uses it when absolutely necessary. It may not be because of environmental awareness, but these elders have habits that are definitely environment-friendly.
The generation of parents are probably the ones who affect the environment negatively the most. That’s not their fault, it’s the fault of the thinking that was around when they were growing up. Status symbols ruled the day, and still does, to some extent. Having a car, when they got into their 30s, was a big thing. Having air conditioners and electric heaters was a luxury that they really wanted. They never shy away from using amenities, would rather use their car to travel a short distance than take a bus or walk. It’s all right to throw away a book that has a few sheets left in it. Batteries and banana peels can go into the same trash can. I suppose, when they were growing up in the 70s and 80s, environmental protection was non-existent in the minds of the public. And that is probably why they are most prone to adopting and not minding practices that are not eco-friendly.
The 80s and 90s kids, now entering their 20s are the most environmentally-educated generation. It has been drilled into our heads that we need to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” and that the environment needs protection. But how many of us put this seriously into practice? That seems to depend on a lot of things; a sense of responsibility, conscience, upbringing etc. I have seen people of my age in political groups of Delhi University blatantly throwing flyers around the campus. Many of them throw wrappers on the road without a second thought. Leaking taps don’t bother them. But there are also others (like me) who are acutely aware of the need to be eco-friendly. All of the above, bothers us. (Even today, I carried a chocolate wrapper for a km before I found a dustbin to put it in.)
The youngest generation is still in the balance. They are young, and their practices depend solely upon how their parents are teaching them. Most young parents today, fortunately, are well informed about environmental issues. Not all of them put it into practice, though.
They are also going to be impacted the most from this environmental crisis. For example, many kids from this generation report problems like eco-anxiety that comes from alarmist claims that their world will end in 20 years. This group, along with the Millennials, are shaping the environmental movement today.
I think it’s going to be important how the last two generations pan out. We are greater in number than the other two generations, and going forward, many of the world’s decisions will come to our hands. That part of the 90s generation still gallivanting about like there’s no problem needs to turn, and the other half is valiantly trying to do that. The kids, need to learn and learn fast that we need to change. If that happens, as I’m hoping it will, the world will be a safer place.