Grayson Joslin is a second-year journalism major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
One of my favorite books I read in high school was Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.”
The news anchor’s 1998 book detailed the generation that grew up in the worst economic depression in the history of the United States, then served in World War II, fighting for the freedom of the world.
One quote that always stood out to me the first time reading it, and still does today, is “a common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility.”
The group of people the Greatest Generation was referring to was Generation X as they were entering their adulthood; however, this quote about the absence of personal responsibility could be used in criticism of Generation Z.
Gen Z has the weight of the world on their shoulders, and I believe that we will be able to help make humanity not only survive but thrive for generations to come.
Gen Z is my generation, the people born from 1997 to 2012, per the Pew Research Center. We have grown up in a world shaped by the War on Terror, the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing climate change. We are the first generation that has been raised by the Internet, a tool that has helped us connect with other Gen Zers across the globe.
This generation has already, in its young days, crafted its own image and its own energy. Like previous generations, we have picked up the trend of activism. Just like the baby boomers protesting against Vietnam and Millennials with the Occupy movement, Gen Z has given its youthful energy to these protests for action against the environment and the numerous school shootings that have plagued this generation.
Gen Z is doing it because the fate of our earth depends on it; we are living in a cross-section where we are playing a dangerous game with nuclear winter and hastening the effects of climate change if we do not change our ways. Gen Z has the weight of the world on their shoulders, and I believe that we will be able to help make humanity not only survive but thrive for generations to come.
The oldest members of Gen Z are beginning adulthood, with some even being elected to public office; Maxwell Frost (D-FL) is the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress. Despite the new blood coming into Washington, the previous Congress is one of the oldest in the history of our country, with the average senator being 64, and the average representative being 58, despite the average age of the nation being around 39 years old according to the Census Bureau.
The age difference between those in power and those in Everytown, USA, is startling and shocking. Those like 80-year-olds Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell are still in some of the most powerful positions in this country, despite being double the age of the average American. A CBS News poll found three-fourths of people, across party lines and demographics, favor maximum age limits for elected officials. Almost half of those respondents said more young people elected in politics would make politics better.
There are many problems when it comes to our country, and finding the roots of these problems will be instrumental in implementing solutions for them. Due to the advantage that incumbents have, this makes it very difficult for any opposition to mount a successful campaign against them. Having the old guard stand down will allow for new people with unique viewpoints to come in and serve the role of policymaker.
Some decisions made in previous years by the federal government, such as the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court, overturning Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right of abortion, have gone against the American public’s opinion. Gen Z must lead the vanguard to put people in Congress that actually represent America’s views, not America’s views of a bygone era.
For this to happen, Gen Z needs to take the initiative and vote at the polls. Young voters casting a ballot increased for last year’s midterm election, with AP VoteCast forecasting nearly 1 in 8 voters were younger than 30. This shows that the 2020 presidential election was not a fluke, which had over half of 18 to 24 year-olds casting their ballot, according to the Census Bureau.
Even though the younger portion of the American population is still the worst when it comes to voter turnout (with the highest being 65 to 74-year-olds, according to the Census Bureau) it shows that our generation is more politically motivated than previous young voters. A Pew Research Study in 2020 found 70 percent of Gen Z wants the government to solve problems rather than businesses.
The truth is businesses and people do not have the resources and the might that our federal government has; some of us look forward to our government to give us answers and to give us hope, and our government needs to give hope for Gen Z. The rule of our government comes from the consent of the governed, and 70 percent of Gen Z wants our government to help us with our problems.
However, the biggest issue that faces Gen Z and ultimately every person on this earth is the future of our environment, and it’s one example of how Gen Z is able to make a difference
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced in April 2022 limiting warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit would require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 43 percent in the next seven years. We are in a race against time to protect our planet from the destruction we have created due to our advancements in industrial technology.
Gen Z has been crucial in environmental activism over the previous few years, and among those that have helped galvanize Gen Z has been Greta Thunberg. Her fiery, no-nonsense attitude has caused the School Strike for Climate to grow in popularity since Thunberg started her journey in 2018.
This also shows the political power and potential Gen Z has, even in our early age. Seventy percent of Gen Zers are involved in a social or a political cause, Edelman found last December. This increased awareness and understanding about our world and how we can wield our power for better change.
The sense of imperativeness in which we need to act to save our environment cannot be understated. With each passing day, we continue to put our earth in a chokehold full of plastic and greenhouse gasses, causing species to go extinct. Drastic measures need to be taken fast; however, global governments are taking a Sunday stroll when deciding to take these measures.
When the IPCC announced their latest findings, they emphasized that all emissions could be halved by 2020. However, the biggest change to us saving this planet is the human condition of apathy. A recent study from the American Psychological Association found those who were less emotional had less concern for the environment.
Humanity needs to make sacrifices to help facilitate action to help protect our environment; we have made some, however it is not enough. Gen Z, with our energy and motivation, can become the spokespeople for saving our environment. We must do whatever we can to help convince people older than us to be selfless and sacrifice some of their convenience for the betterment of humanity.
I see high hopes for our generation. We are more caring and emphatic than those before us. We look for the most sensible and realistic option. Gen Z is in it for the long haul, which means we must find a way to help save us from ourselves.
Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at Grayson.email@example.com or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.