The Earth is dying. Quite literally.
While many of you may think this line may seem inflammatory or over-the-top, it is true. It is happening right now. The ongoing climate crisis has been a sad reality for most of Gen-Z. We grew up hearing about the dangers of global warming before we could even learn how to talk. We inherited a plagued Earth and that drives each and every one of our decisions – what we eat, what we wear, what career we pick and even whether or not we have children. Such eco-anxiety does have an effect on one’s mental health – and an uncertain future only adds fuel to the fire. It’s a heavy burden to bear. Surveys show that Gen Z is not just incorporating sustainability into their day to day lives – they’re dedicating their lives to it. More and more people are picking up degrees in environmental-related careers. They want to be part of the solution. After all, there is but one earth!
Rising of the youth
What stumps most Gen Z is that we have had plenty of warning, and yet we are now in the throes of a global catastrophe with the Arctic and Antarctica reaching 30° C and 47° C higher than normal. In 2018, when Greta Thunberg protested for the cause outside the Swedish Parliament, it had a ripple effect. It gave birth to #FridaysForFuture, a youth-led global climate strike. The goal of the movement is to put pressure on policymakers and to make them see what the climate crisis actually is: a crisis. Climate strikes demand that governments all around the world declare a climate emergency. A climate emergency declaration puts the government on record that climate change is here and we need to make substantial changes in how we live. Many believe it is the first radical act towards 0% emissions. Real change begins at grassroot levels, with the youth taking center stage and demanding the local bodies take action. We also see more and more youth raising awareness about this issue in their own unique ways, ways that get people talking. Hunger strikes. Street art. Spoken word poetry. Social media campaigns. And so much more.
The many faces of eco-anxiety
For many, an intersection of eco-anxiety and oppression is intersectional. It is well-proven that marginalized communities like natives and forest-dwellers are the worst hit by global warming and its subsequent effects. Think flash floods, heatwaves, landslides and droughts. For a lot of people, this is something that pushes them to work even harder towards a more sustainable and equitable society. Not only this – the countries that produce the least amount of CO2 are hit the hardest by the climate crisis. For instance, 82% of the global CO2 emissions are emitted by the richest countries. Let’s look at the Philippines – it produces only 0.35% of the world’s total CO2 emissions and yet it suffers majorly every year from floods, landslides, cyclones and more, which are now only increasing in frequency.
For this, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines announced in 2019 that 47 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms, known as the Carbon Majors, could be held morally and legally responsible for violating the human rights of Filipinos. And unsurprisingly, most of the companies are western. This just goes to expose the global asymmetry in climate change effects and its responsibility.
To do to not to do: A generation without choice
A grim outlook coupled with one crisis after another, has left the current generation without much choice – fight for the cause or die. Not only do they want to save the planet – but they want to do so by making a collective shift away from a profit-driven, capitalist society to one that is a lot more sustainable, equal and inclusive. After all, there is no future without a planet.