Perception versus reality

Baby boomers get a lot of stick for having screwed up the planet.

Fair enough, millennials and Generation Z were born into a world already in a bad state.

It can’t be their fault, they weren’t around, it must be the previous generation.

Greta Thunberg goes to the UN and shouts "How dare you?" and we hang our heads in shame.

That’s the image, that’s the emotional narrative, but the facts are rather different.

It seems, to quote Full Metal Jacket: "They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk."

The Global Warming Policy Forum quoted some numbers from a recent survey conducted by Censuswide, amongst 4,000 UK adults.

It shows people over 55 are 66% likely to avoid single-use plastic packaging, whereas 16-24s are only 55% likely to.

People over 55 are 84% likely to use recycling bins, whereas 16-24s are only 66% likely to.

Over 55s are 24% likely to reduce plane travel, whereas 16-24s are only 21% likely to.

Over 55s are 47% likely to source seasonal fruit and veg, whereas 16-24s are only 33% likely to.

Over 55s are 63% likely to buy from local suppliers, but 16-24s are only 45% likely to.

The survey showed people in their 20s and 30s throw away almost 50% more food than people over 65.

To quote from the article: "When it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, younger people fall short. They buy cheap clothes from Asos, ride Ubers rather than buses, have fast food sent daily via Deliveroo and eat smashed avocados from Mexico rather than seasonal vegetables from local suppliers – all of which boosts fuel emissions and non-recyclable plastic use."

That’s what happens when they studied behaviour: what people actually do.

But of course, the claims people make are different from that.

Thirty-eight per cent of millennials said they would donate to environmental charities, but only 30% actually do.

Whereas 30% of baby boomers claimed they would donate to environmental charities, but in fact 38% actually do.

It seems millennials, and Generation Z, are just like ordinary people: willing to shout and moan and blame someone else, but not to actually do anything.

The ones that we see on the news, are the ones that consider themselves the spokespeople for their generation.

But how effective is what they’re actually doing?

Extinction Rebellion brought central London to a standstill for a week last year with a boat in Oxford Circus.

Celebrities flew in from Hollywood to be photographed in it.

But a few hundred yards away is the Chinese embassy, no one went anywhere near that.

And yet, according to The World Resources Institute, China contributes 27.5% to global warming whereas the UK contributes 1.2%.

Why wasn’t the boat a few hundred yards up the road, outside the Chinese embassy, where it would have done more good?

Obviously, because a boat in Oxford Circus is much more fun and newsworthy.

Maybe the question is, do they really care, or are they just interested in being seen to care?

Either way, it’s quite understandable.

My generation went on protests as long as they were fun, worth joining in.

And that’s the truth that Bob Geldof found.

If you want people to care and join in, don’t make it miserable, make it fun.

Everybody wants to do what’s fun, more than being constantly nagged and told off.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

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