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Among the young population there is widespread concern about the environmental crisis. However, 40% would agree that the problem is being exaggerated. Additionally, 57% are confident that science and technology will prevent the Earth from being uninhabitable.
Despite the above, a pessimistic vision regarding the future of humanity predominates. The emotions expressed regarding environmental problems are mainly identified with helplessness (45% of mentions), fear (42%) and sadness (36%). More than 70% of young people consider that we are incapable of abandoning our consumerist lifestyle.
Lander Gaztelumendi, vice president of the SM Foundation, points out the importance of understanding the positions of young people at a crucial moment for life on the planet. "We want this research to help in the training, training and support of young people as active agents in decision-making and in proposing concrete solutions."
As indicated by the director of the Royal Botanical Garden-CSIC, María-Paz Martín, “at the RJB we research and carry out education and training work, through university teaching, the direction of undergraduate, master's and doctoral theses; and the participation in different programs with Secondary Schools to promote scientific vocations and environmental conservation. In addition, we develop programs such as the Workshop School financed by the SEPE, whose director is Beatriz Perlines, and the EU Tandem Program, whose director is Alejandro Gómez. From the institutions we can provide training, in fact, the RJB does not fall into complacency and given the importance of climate change, we will continue working on the training of young people and dissemination of environmental conservation, but, the most important thing is the interest and concern of young people as evidenced by this interesting and timely report prepared by the SM Foundation.”
Distrust of political will
Young people identify large companies as those mainly responsible for the ecological crisis, and consider that only the European Union, together with the United Nations and their own generation, are taking this issue seriously.
The majority (72%) understand that environmental protection should be a priority in politics, and distrust (73%) the will of political leaders to implement the agreements reached at major world summits. And almost the same proportion demand fair ecological transitions with taxes that fall especially on people with greater resources.
Activists, but unwilling (or unable) to change their lifestyle
The results of the research show that young people have a high level of awareness regarding recycling, and buying fashion and technology produced in a sustainable and ethical way. However, they are unwilling to introduce radical changes in their lifestyles (eating meat, traveling by plane, using their own car, etc.).
Approximately a third of Spanish youth show an activism profile that is highly committed to environmental issues. 40% often discuss the need to act on climate change; 48% have participated in activities to conserve nature, and around 40% have participated in service-learning projects and community events to raise awareness about the environment.
1 in 4 young people say they have voted or vote for environmental parties. Social networks are the channel that they mostly use, 64%, to find out about environmental aspects and to share actions and concerns, considering the opinions of the scientific community to be the most reliable.
The importance of education
“If we really (as a society) want young people to actively participate in the search for solutions to the current climate crisis, we must opt for an education that puts the ecosocial dimension at the center. One of the greatest pieces of evidence observed in this research is the effect of the education variable as a predictor not only of greater critical awareness, but also of a political-social profile more committed to collective action,” says Ariana Pérez Coutado, coordinator of research of the SM Foundation.
The research indicates that, to achieve greater individual and collective commitment in the fight against climate change, it is not enough to provide information and training to young people, but rather it is necessary to strengthen the belief that they have a key and necessary role. for the impact to be effective.
82% demand more education on environmental issues in educational centers and consider this to be the most effective measure, along with tightening laws and changing the way we consume, to address the climate crisis.
Methodology: a rigorous quantitative approach
The authors and those responsible for the study, Juan Mª González-Anleo Sánchez, Isabel Lema Blanco and Ariana Pérez Coutado, have extensive research experience in the field of youth, perception and environmental education. And they have had advice from the IDEA Institute of the SM Foundation regarding technical and methodological issues.
The results were obtained from a survey applied to 1,500 young people residing in Spain between the ages of 15 and 29. This report not only addresses youth concerns about the climate crisis, but also examines the factors that influence their attitudes toward the environment and their willingness to adopt responsible consumption behaviors and participate in political-social actions.
Prestige and reliability of SM Foundation reports
"Youth and the environment" is situated within the framework of a more extensive work that the SM Foundation is developing with the Observatory of Youth in Ibero-America (www.observatoriodelajuventud.org), which is a program of the SM Foundation with more than thirty years of experience. dedication to research on youth, education and culture that, throughout its career, has prepared dozens of reports to understand the concerns, interests and motivations of youth.
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