Countless teenagers all over the globe do their part to aid Earth’s ailing environment.‚ They take shorter showers, walk instead of drive and sometimes even sit in total darkness for a full hour.‚ But what compels them to do such things?
“Teens want to be current,” said Navita Dyal, a second-year student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.‚ She believes saving the environment has become more of a trend for younger people than a true passion.
“What’s more current than global warming?‚ Celebrities are all over the Internet and TV hawking their opinions and their message.‚ How can the youths, who look up to these people, not follow?” she said.
Dyal believes the Hollywood stars and starlets, who endorse environmental campaigns like Global Cool and Earth Hour, do so with the intent to spark a cultural change.
“There are actors like Rosario Dawson and Josh Hartnett who support Global Cool” she explains.‚ “Celebrities of that magnitude can endorse anything and legions of teens follow.‚ That’s the point, they know they have so much influence.”
Earth Day Canada President Jed Goldberg believes that while teens don’t want to be left out of the current cultural shift, some participate because they truly worry about the current state of the world.
“Generation Y, and the latter part of generation X, have the opportunity now to save the planet from environmental destruction” he said.‚ “There is a genuine concern about the consequences of climate change.”
Josh Garfinkel, a senior campaigner at Earthroots, a grassroots campaign committed to protecting Ontario’s environment, says youths make up a large part of the “go green” movement, especially here in Toronto.‚ They participate and volunteer with his organization and many like it more now than ever before.
“In particular it’s the 15 to 30-year-old volunteers that are very are keen on reversing that typical trait of apathy among our government” he said.
That “apathy” is the current Canadian government’s disregard for environmental reform, especially their indifferent attitude toward the Kyoto Protocol, something with which Garfinkel says Earthroots volunteers are “very irritated.”
“They are kind of annoyed with how some people just don’t understand the effect that little things can have on the environment” Garfinkel said of his volunteers, who are also fed up with the uninterested attitudes of everyday citizens.
“People don’t really get what it means when a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan breaks off an ice shelf.‚ Nor do they understand its impact.”
Dyal is also irritated with ordinary Canadians.
“Some of the people who participate in Earth Hour drive around on a daily basis in big SUV’s.‚ If they truly cared about the environment they wouldn’t be driving Cadillac Escalades, tearing it apart” she said.‚ ‚ “It’s a bit of an oxymoron.‚ They think shutting the lights off for a day justifies their lifestyle.‚ It doesn’t.”
Much of the problem lies in education.‚ Goldberg believes that while global warming is a hot topic, society doesn’t really understand its potential impact because of ignorance on the parts of the school system and the media around the world.
“People don’t really get what it means when a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan breaks off an ice shelf.‚ Nor do they understand its impact” he said.‚ “People just think it’s unbelievable that one piece of ice that big can suddenly crack off.‚ And that’s the extent of their interest.”
Dyal agrees that people don’t know enough about the issue itself.
“People need to be more educated on what the actual problem is.‚ All we hear is global warming this and global warming that, but it’s not often that we hear specifics” she said.‚ “I think that would help but if people want to do things like drink fair trade coffee just because of Jennifer Aniston then so be it.”
Regardless of all the factors that influence youths and others to help out, Goldberg is just thankful people are actively involved in environmental campaigns.
“I don’t care what their motivation is.‚ The important thing is that there are actually people out there who are engaged and dedicated to helping” he said. “There are many apathetic youths, but when I see teens with a genuine care for the environment, it makes me happy.‚ Helping the environment, no matter what the cause, is all that matters.”