Emily Meredith The millennial generation is concerned about “causes” and one of their favorites is having a sustainable environment.
Last week, the Clinton Global Initiative, in conjunction with Microsoft, released the results of a poll aimed to identify millennials’ top priorities. The release of the poll results coincided with the Clinton Global Initiative University conference at Arizona State University, where students from across the country gathered to focus on global issues, including climate change, education and food security.
According to the poll, millennials say they are more focused on the environment than their parents’ generation, 76% to 24%. More than 66% of millennials say there is “solid evidence” the earth is getting warmer, and 75% of those respondents say human activity is responsible for it.
Yet, millennials are unsure if they can solve the problem of climate change, according to the poll. Fifty-four percent of millennials feel they’ll make a significant contribution to better the environment, while 56% believe they’ll actually worsen the earth’s condition in their lifetimes. Respondents were also divided on the best route to address global warming: half said governments and political action, and half said individuals can best combat it on their own.
But—most crucially—more than two-thirds of respondents said they are willing to pay more for products from sustainability-focused companies.
While some feel that the so-called “selfie” generation deserves a pat on the back for their efforts to take the bull by the horns and try and improve the earth’s condition—I know it just about gives those of us in agriculture a heart attack. Not because we in ag don’t want to see a more sustainable food system, one that constantly evolves and changes to meet the next set of environmental challenges, but because there’s no “one sustainability fits all.”
Sustainability is a word that lacks definition, or rather, lacks one definition.
I, like many in agriculture, define sustainability as a journey, rather than a destination. Sustainability is a means to constantly improve upon age-old traditions of environmental stewardship. I think of our American farmers and ranchers as the original recyclers—as those who look to pass on their land to the next generation in a better condition than when they themselves inherited it.
But as skepticism for corporations and government grows, consumers—and millennials in particular—become less and less confident that we in agriculture are doing the right thing when it comes to the environment.
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