“One cannot live on bread alone.” Or “Shop ‘til you drop.” We live in a consumer society that has provided us with a shallow purpose and short-lived enjoyment.
But, it wasn’t always like this. Not long ago in rural America and now in many cultures worldwide, people are part of communities where their lives have purpose, their work has purpose, and they belong. Those of us who have lived in such communities know the importance of family and community relationships as much more important than money.
Growing up I felt that I belonged. I was in several social groups: music, sports, and a church youth group. It was the youth group that tied them together and gave me a sense of purpose for life. TV didn’t pull me away from social activities.
What I’ve gathered from the news is that today’s youth know that they face an uncertain future and have, for the most part, lost a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Life for them is more about self than community. They seem to drift from one iPhone to the next, reducing person-to-person interaction.
The Climate Change struggle offers the youth a purpose to work together to save their own skins. They will have to because oldsters like me will be dead. It has to be the youth who will save future life because those who caused the climate change problem cannot solve it. Saving the earth needs to be the main purpose of future generations. Otherwise, we humans face extinction.
A little history lesson: The 20th Century has been called the “Dark Century,” characterized by industrialization and by corporate control of the world’s economy, natural resources (especially coal and oil), and capital wealth. This has led to major world wars and regional wars over oil. It’s led to great disparity of wealth between countries as well as between individuals. It’s led to carbon pollution and climate warming and change. It’s led to the destruction of the earth’s environment. Most politicians and the economic oligarchy that hold the present power to retard climate change won’t do much because they don’t want to disrupt short-term profits. The leaders of Congress haven’t yet listened to the scientists who have cried for action now. Delaying action on Climate Change makes it worst for the young.
The youth are living in a society that is slowly sliding downward in all sectors with government dysfunctional at all levels. The big question is: Can they overcome their non-involvement and learn to work together?
My pessimistic optimism leads me to fear that huge climate change disasters overseas will not be enough to galvanize the youth to action. What’s it to them if a million Bangladeshis starve or drown? It may take huge local disasters to strike them in the face before they start to act.
If the youth love themselves, if they love their families, if they love their communities, then they will try to protect life. If they love life on earth, they will try to save it. This could be the great purpose of the future generations.
I wonder what the under-30’s think about this, but I doubt if many will read it. So readers: How can we help them become aware of the peril of no action?
Wayne Kessler is the former owner of Shambani Organics, former Peace Corps volunteer, and founding member of Growing Local.