Eco-conscious Gen Z taking action

In this picture taken on 25 August, 2019, 12-year-old Ralyn Satidtanasarn, known by her nickname Lilly, paddles to collect plastic waste in a canal in Bangkok. (AFP Photo)

If there is one thing millennials are happy about, it would be transferring most of the ageism stereotyping they have endured over the past decade to the new Generation Z or Gen Z. Based on a 2018 McKinsey article titled ‘True Gen: Generation Z and its implications for companies,’ Gen Z is the cohort born between 1995 and 2010. They are currently between the ages of nine and 24-years old.

Calling millennials entitled and spoilt is no longer fitting as the oldest of that cohort are now in their mid-30s with some already running large companies or already having moved high up the corporate ladder. The younger cohorts’ past debacle with Tide Pods and questionable music tastes has only increased the ageism aggression target at them. 

Entering the workforce

Gen Z is the first cohort to have internet technology readily available at a young age, with some observers calling them digital natives. The oldest of Gen Z are now entering the workforce and they are tech savvy. To gain leverage from this technology literate group, some organisations have integrated mentorship programmes where Gen Z are leading the way to enhance technical competencies. It is also expected that they will utilise social media to reshape the workforce.

Source: Dell Technologies, 2018

A 2018 research by Dell Technologies titled ‘Gen Z: The Future has arrived,’ revealed that although they want job security and monetary motivation, Gen Z is less interested in climbing the corporate ladder and are more intrigued about supporting their companies’ growth and success. The research surveyed over 12,000 Gen Zs across the globe with at least 4,300 individuals polled from Southeast Asia.

The report found that Gen Z looks for non-monetary factors in an organisation, with 45 percent wanting to work at an organisation that has meaning and purpose beyond simply getting paid. The survey showed that 38 percent of Gen Z want to work in socially and environmentally responsible organisations. In Southeast Asia, Gen Zs in the Philippines ranked top for their passion about environmental causes with 53 percent. They are followed by Gen Z in Malaysia (47 percent), Vietnam (43 percent) and Singapore (40 percent). Dell’s report found a characteristic shared by many Gen Z which is the desire to make a positive impact on the world.

Genuinely eco-conscious 

Gen Z is observing the onslaught of devastation left by man-made disasters as well as natural disasters brought on by climate change, which is raising awareness among them. They are practising an eco-conscious lifestyle and have early interest in environmental issues. Last week’s Global Climate Strike which was attended by thousands of Gen Zs is evident that this generation has made climate change their issue. 

Source: Dell Technologies, 2018

The massive strike was led by 16-year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who would later lecture United Nations (UN) leaders at the recent UN Climate Summit in the most confronting way to push for greater action on climate change. The global strike has since inspired other sub-protests around the world, initiated by the youth.

Autumn Peltier is another Gen Z to address the UN. The 15-year old Peltier is the Anishinabek Nation chief water commissioner who has spent half her life raising awareness about water issues in First Nations communities across Canada. She is fighting for children who are growing up without access to drinkable tap water with some communities not even able to shower without risking possible exposure to a carcinogen. 

16-year-old Isra Hirsi is the co-founder and executive director of the US Youth Climate Strike branch for the global youth-led climate movement. Her focus on intersectionality is important within the climate justice movement to move the climate conversation away from the privileged. 

Thailand too has its own Thunberg and she is fighting against single-use plastic. 11-year old Ralyn ‘Lilly’ Satidtanasarn uses petitions to save Thailand’s environment by meeting with mall executives to demand reductions in single-use plastic waste. 

Petitioning though has its disadvantages, including being turned away. “When I was in face-to-face discussions, some people were defensive. I was saying all the cons and alternatives [to single-use plastic], but they just said I was a small girl and all alone,” Lilly recalled, describing her most discouraging moment of activism.

The Philippine’s Gen Z activist is 22-year old Marinel Ubaldo who speaks on behalf of marginalised groups. In 2015, she took part in the United Nations Climate Change Conference as part of the youth delegation and spoke in New York City at a hearing held by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights to investigate corporate responsibility in climate change. 

Ageism can be debilitating for the youth especially when what is said gets buried under who says it. But Gen Zs are willing to engage in environmental activism to support causes they care about. They are inheriting a world that is plagued with severe climate catastrophes, rapid extinctions and loss of natural ecosystems, and they are not happy about it. And from what we can see, Gen Z is more determined and louder in asking for change and leading this pack are some highly focused females.

This article was first published on 28 September, 2019. 

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