Are teens doing enough for the environment?

Faced with the issues of preserving Earth’s natural scenery, combating global environment phenomena like global warming, reducing Man’s carbon footprint on the earth and other problems that plague the earth’s physical environment, the global community is worried. Environmental problems are the result of constant, accumulated dependency on the earth’s resources since centuries past— and these problems will only worsen in the future if nothing is done to resolve these problems. It is imperative, then, that future generations begin preventive, if not restorative action in order to mitigate or resolve the harms Man has brought to our planet, especially since they are emotionally invested in the condition of Earth in the decades to come. Fortunately, these teenagers are stepping up to their responsibilities, and within their capabilities, grapple with these environmental problems — signifying that they are indeed doing enough.

Before gauging the contributions of teenagers to the environment, it is important that we understand the constraints they live within and the extent of their capabilities, because their contributions must be compared relative to those boundaries. First, we need to recognise that they have financial constraints. Lacking a source of income, it would be unreasonable to expect huge donations that traditionally come from concerned philanthropists, or to expect financial investment for environmental solutions. Second, we need to acknowledge their other commitments. Being growing individuals with little experience and knowledge, teenagers often have other commitments such as school that take up their time. Noting this, it would also be unreasonable to expect them to take on the role of full-time environmental activists like those in Greenpeace, for instance. Third, teenagers are commonly thought of as irrational beings with inability to make important decisions, so adults usually bar them from obtaining partaking in discussions and making significant choices. As such, many lack the power to implement change, unless they obtain support from adults. However, what we should examine is the effort put in to think up new, innovative ideas to solve environmental issues, or the time committed outside school hours to participate in environmental efforts such as sorting of recyclable rubbish or beach cleanups as a part of serving the community. Hopefully, then, they will implement and push out their new innovations as they grow up. 

Some would argue that teenagers are completely ignorant of the problem of global warming, and this means that they do not contribute to saving the environment because they do not acknowledge the problems facing the environment and do not understand the solutions to solve it. However, in a world of increased connectivity through pervasive media platforms like the Internet and social media platforms, the number of teenagers understanding the severity of the problem has increased. Naturally, a majority of these teenage individuals are concerned about the problem — a survey done by Habbo and Greenpeace in 2007 of 50,000 teenagers showed that they were more concerned about greenhouse gases than drugs, violence and war, with 74% believing that global warming is a serious concern. Taking note of the fact that the implications of the energy crisis and the onset of melting ice caps in the Arctic all happen and will affect the lives of these teenagers, it is reasonable that these teenagers will be invested in solving these problems. At this, it is then important to understand how these concerns translate into concrete action to care for the environment and the future of the Earth. Increasingly, schools have been providing chances for teenagers to show their dedication to the environment. Students have been coming up with unique solutions, like using soy bean waste to produce bioethanol, or using sea shells to adsorb heavy metal ions from water, all in the name of saving the environment and making the world a better place to live in. These reflect the sheer dedication of these students to think up novel methods of solving issues like the energy crisis and pollution of Earth’s resources, showing that teenagers are indeed acknowledging the problems with the environment, and intend to solve them. 
Other skeptics of teenage environmental activism also claim that teenagers today are often distracted by other things like technology and their gadget, which leaves little thought for contemplating how to protect the environment. On the contrary, teenagers are much more likely to initiate their own environmental projects and awareness campaigns, bypassing the political, bureaucratic world of adults. Furthermore, the familiarity teenagers today have with technology and their devices make their campaigns all the more effective and their messages all the more impactful. Though many teenagers are often not handed the chance to make important decisions, many teenagers do not merely give up but go on to push for change in other ways. For instance, a group of these teenagers in San Francisco went to rally for change in their own creative ways, such as the donning of impactful costumes made of plastic bags, and finally testifying in their courts for their cause. This led to the banning of the provision of plastic bags in their county, which is a significant change for the community. This also disproves the assumption that one must hold significant power before change can be brought about. In addition, the technologically-savvy younger generation is able to forward their cause more strongly aided by the Internet, their handphones and the like. These social media platforms are increasingly used in the global community, and they are special in that the messages they portray are not only delivered efficiently but also effectively, aided by the use of photos and videos that come along with campaign messages. Well-accustomed teenagers can thus use these technological platforms to show their concern, share their thoughts and promote their own actions. This bonds groups of adults and teenagers alike that are interested in doing more for the environment, and can serve as a source of  inspiration for change such that more people can contribute, and more effectively. Clearly, teenagers are indeed doing enough by pushing for change in their own unique ways, manoeuvring within the tight boundaries they experience. 

Opponents of the thesis express regret over the fact that commitments bog down teenagers, and make the statement that teenagers could have done so much more if academic work was not as intensive as it currently is. The problem with such statements is that it fails to consider that the growing trend that education seems to be taking a turn towards. Education is no longer just the feeding of knowledge, but also has adapted to include the requirement for students to take on projects. This means that schools increasingly take into account the need for students to learn new skills and apply them in the real world. There is no better place to do this than in schools, where teachers are students’ sources of guidance and a pathway to greater resources and connections. Teenagers that are indeed concerned about the environment would have access to ideas and previous works, of which schools have a dearth of. Therefore, under the mentorship and help of adults, teenagers can then find ways to realise and materialise their ideas to save the environment. The learning of the effect of bonding between the cell walls of microorganisms to certain substances in biology, for example, facilitates the inspiration of students to find out if harmful substances can be selectively removed from the environment. Overall, the intense focus of the entire global community on the environment has allowed students to build on the foundations set up by their forefathers, and thereby concretise their ideas and inspirations. 

In essence, the children of today are raised to feel a natural inclination towards saving the environment, and have been repeatedly told by the global community and the media that they are tasked with the job of preventing environmental chaos and further harm. This pushes teenagers to take on more projects with like-minded individuals, which can be found more easily in this globalised world with the help of social media. The expertise, knowledge and interest of scientists and researchers can then add on to the ideas and projects of these invested youths, so as to actually find a way to solve environmental problems. As Thomas Jefferson, previous American president, said, “Every generation needs a new revolution”. The environmental revolution will be a new one, headed by teenagers, the adults of tomorrow, and backed by their parents and the research of generations past. 


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.