As the youth outreach coordinator, this question has been plaguing me for months. Gen Z is, on average, very passionate about the climate, social justice, and what’s going on in our world. But then why is it so hard to get my peers involved in XR and other climate groups?
I am a twenty-year-old climate activist. Some say I’m too old to be Gen Z, but I’m definitely not a Millennial. I joined XR last March when, due to COVID, my job teaching 6th graders environmental science was put on hold.
Gen Z is connected on a global scale by our phones. We are a community spanning the world. We are subjected to more information daily than people in the past may have gotten in months. We are bombarded by the horrors and joys of our world every moment of every day. At all hours of the day, the next news story is merely clicks away. And for some, this is motivating. For others, it can be crippling. Joining XR is not a problem for most. I can usually get my peers to show up to a meeting or two. They are enthusiastic about orientations, and often will show up to an action if I ask. It’s staying that’s the problem. From this I have learned a couple things: it is hard to want to stay connected to a group when the real world moves so much slower than the news we receive, and we are so stressed out.
Progress takes time. We need change, and we need it now. We know this. But in the real world, change does not happen rapidly. And for people like me who have grown up exposed to instantaneous information- and so much change- accepting the slow pace of responding to the atrocities on this Earth can be hard.
In addition, young people today are living with such high levels of stress adding anything to our plates, even good things like climate activism, can be a tipping point in mental health. Now of course, teenagers and young adults are having to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, health concerns, and online school. But before the pandemic life wasn’t much safer. In high school I lived in terror of being the next statistic of a school shooting, a concern that wasn’t at all far-fetched. In my four years at Grant High School we had at least three bomb threats that I can remember, and my mom was working across the street at the middle school when the shooting at Reynolds High occurred.
We all know the faults of our public education system, standardized tests, and government. We all know teenagers are stressed. But after joining XR I’m realizing that the stress that comes with coming of age in modern society, and with the bombardment of information we all face, sometimes action can seem pointless.
But action is what we need. Don’t let the world tell you that your influence doesn’t matter. This movement can feel slow, but we need every single person on board. Together, we can do it. We can make a lasting impact on this world, if we just take the initiative, and don’t forget to take care of each other.