Young people all over the world are taking to the streets to strike for more climate protection. Generation Global is a growing generation of world citizens who see global problems such as climate change and resource scarcity as their own. And thus marks the starting point of a new sustainability movement: Local commitment for global impact.
Greta Thurnberg, Luisa Neubauer and Jakob Blasel – these are the names we are currently allowed to read more frequently in the news. #Fridaysforfuture and #SchoolsStrike4Climate have been among the top trend hashtags on Twitter for days now. And talk shows and TV magazines around the world are suddenly once again talking about climate change, activism and social change towards greater sustainability. What happened?
A good three years ago, at the United Nations climate summit in Paris, practically all the countries of the world signed a binding international agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Efforts would even be made to limit it to 1.5 degrees. But the euphoria of this historic moment was slowly followed by disillusionment: Leading countries of the world threaten to miss their climate targets – from Germany via the Netherlands to, of course, the USA. With Brazil, China and Japan, only three G20 countries are on their way to achieving their goals.
The world is standing with its back to the wall. But now the following is happening: We are witnessing a new global environmental movement. It is supported and driven by a growing generation of young people who see global problems such as climate change and resource scarcity as their own. And this is precisely where the great potential lies: When asked about their own identity, this generation sees itself above all as citizens of the world. The Generation Global, as the Zukunftsinstitut calls it, no longer identifies itself with nation states, but above all with other people who share its own values and can be enthusiastic about the same cause.
„We are witnessing a new global environmental movement.“
For weeks, thousands of schoolchildren have been taking to the streets on Fridays to demonstrate in front of their parliaments for more climate protection. More precisely, to strike, because they do it during school time. And yes, this is a deliberately calculated violation of existing rules, as the movement sees the mistakes of global climate policies as a much more serious violation of the social contract for the future. Gone are the days when on weekends small groups stood on main urban shopping streets to collect signatures for more animal welfare or fair-trade products. Today, tens of thousands of people are walking through the government quarters, holding up signs with “Skolstrejk för Klimatet”, “Stop climate change!” or “We don’t have time!”.
50 percent of the world’s population is younger than 30 years. Until recently, however, they played hardly any role in political events, especially in world politics. The last time so many young people took part in a political demonstration is a long time ago. But today’s movement is not just a movement of followers, it is an initiating and driving force. And thanks to digital networks, such interest groups and initiatives can now be organised easily and across borders in no time. The Generation Global is smart, and because of the digitality it lives in, it is also enormously powerful.
Another important innovation is that no political colour is needed for such political commitment. Although the younger population’s interest in political and social participation is growing again, parties or a division into political camps are no longer of interest. The dichotomy between “right” and “left” is just as outdated as the dichotomy between “real” and “digital” or thinking within national borders.
Today global problems are of more concern for young people than personal problems. Climate change and the destruction of nature, wars and conflicts, social inequality – these are the top issues and major challenges of our time that the world has to face, according to the generation. Individual challenges associated with education, financial situation or health are receding into the background. This is also because today we are confronted at the “micro level” with fewer existential fears than our grandparents.
„Today global problems are of more concern for young people than personal problems.“
The Generation Global is freeing itself from a materialistic way of thinking in which expensive things guarantee a certain social status. It is therefore all the more receptive to sharing offers. But apart from cars, clothing and food, worries are also shared. But social networks, new service platforms and innovative “app communities” make it possible for the Generation Global to let activities emerge independently of each other in various forms and in various parts of the world. The often hyperlocal projects and initiatives are thus the expression of a new class of world citizens with admirable altruistic values. The growing Generation Global takes the planet seriously as its home and sees global issues such as climate change and environmental pollution as its own.
Just one in five of the 18-35-year-olds worldwide has the feeling that their own concerns are being taken seriously by decision-makers in their home countries before major decisions are made. But in the future it will be indispensable for companies and politicians alike to listen to this Generation Global and its needs. Because of their sheer size, they are not only very influential today, but above all in the future, as they are going to represent an ever larger part of the workforce and voter base. And this is precisely why they should not be dismissed as a mere fad, since they are essentially an effort – a huge movement – to adapt to a world undergoing fundamental change.