Saturday, 31 January 2009

Motivators Behind the Millennials' Lead of the Change Revolution

Jun. '08: Why will Millennials lead the coming 'change revolution' so aggressively?

At current growth rates, the global population will increase by another 50% within the next 25 years. The onslaught of extinctions that will take place around the world in the next couple of decades, if not the next few years, will leave them aghast. As unprecedented numbers of developing world entrepreneurs become flush with cash, the last of the forests and rainforests will be cut down to feed and accommodate our exponentially exploding human population, while the oceans (already fished to the point that we are now eating rare bottom feeders ground into our frozen fish sticks), will be exhausted by the free-ranging floating factories currently sweeping the seas.

This is not dire fantasy, just simple mathematics. As people multiply AND become more prosperous, the demand for meat will rise along with the demand for land to farm and property to live on. Furthermore, with more wealth, but insufficient education, old superstitions will persist and new convictions will spring up – the value of concoctions like rhinoceros horn and tiger testicle aphrodisiac potions are about to rise astronomically as these creatures become ever more rare.

If anything will drive home the seriousness of human impact upon the globe, it will be the day that the last townhouses are finally erected over what was the vast Serengeti. Rare animals will exist in zoos and preserves, but not in the wild. The Millennials grew up suspecting, if not admitting to themselves, that this tragedy is coming. They are ready now, as they enter adulthood, to lead the charge for change to try to reverse or mitigate these tragedies.

Millennials will be in the midst of adulthood as all of the full reality of human impact on the planet takes place and it will have a profound impact upon them. The Boomers will all be dead, while the Millennials’ Gen X parents will be firmly in charge of all major businesses and governments. The Millennials will be left ‘holding the proverbial bag,’ dealing with Gen X-ers in all the drivers’ seats worried about increasing their retirement nest eggs (which tends to reduce their concern for the environment, not unlike George W’s friends and cohorts during 2000-2008), but facing the reality of a swiftly deteriorating global environment.

The Legacy of the Boomers

Before we write off the influence of the Boomers entirely, however, let’s keep in mind that they truly believed that theirs would be the generation that would change the way that humans interact with each other (“make love, not war”) AND that would change how we interact with the environment (communes and “flower power”). This group is just now entering retirement and are at the point in life where they worry very much about their legacies – what did they do to improve the world, what will be said about their generation when they’re gone? I suspect that, in America at least, it will be that they were the Gordon Gecko generation: “the one who dies with the most ‘toys’ (SUV’s, ATV’s, RV’s, snowmobiles, powerboats and ride ‘em mowers) wins!”

But wait, the Boomers who live in the developed world have unprecedentedly large investment nest eggs in their banks. Both their children and grandchildren are well taken care of WITHOUT their inheritances. They thought that they’d change things for the better, but over the past few years, they’ve been slowly coming to the realization that their generation quite literally raped the environment. It was the Boomers drive to succeed at all costs, to ‘live large,’ that led us to where we are today. Now they have a choice, with time on their hands and money in the bank, will they buy even bigger retirement homes with 4 car garages and matching his and hers Hummers, or will they try to fulfill their original mission to change the world for the better?

They are old now, and the older folks are, the less they like change, yet they have the power, the ‘mantle’ of the Flower Power generation and the mandate that goes with it, to enable them to make a difference and benefit both their children and grand children’s lives. Their grandkids, the ‘apples of their eyes’, are tearfully watching the rapid extinction of many species, species that the Boomers, when they were children, knew roamed in large numbers in the wild. The reality is that the Boomers are starting to pay a great deal of attention to ‘Green Portfolios,’ buying carbon offsets, recycling and philanthropy. They got a bit distracted between the ‘60’s and 2000’s with making money and raising kids, but they’re back!

We’re witnessing the emergence of an odd pairing, generational bookends: an activist generation of kids entering adulthood who grew up on a steady educational diet of environmentalism and a generation of relatively young retired folks who entered adulthood with the mandate to leave the world with a healthier environment than they started with. These unlikely partners just might help improve thing on this little planet we call Earth, both in the developed world and, surprisingly, upon the developing world that supplies them with much of what they consume through the demands they make as consumers.

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