This month’s bookshelf feature by George Washington University professor and bibliophile Michael Svoboda addresses some of the current literature on millennials, climate change, and politics. The descriptions are drawn from copy provided by the publishers.
Millennials on climate change
Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet, edited by Julie Dunlap and Susan A. Cohen (Trinity University Press 2016, 248 pages, $18.95 paperback)
Coming of Age at the End of Nature explores a new kind of environmental writing. This powerful anthology gathers the passionate voices of young writers who have come of age since Bill McKibben foretold the doom of humanity’s ancient relationship with a pristine earth in his prescient 1988 warning of climate change, The End of Nature. Twenty-two essays explore wide-ranging themes that are paramount to young generations but that resonate with everyone, including redefining materialism and environmental justice, assessing the risk and promise of technology, and celebrating place anywhere from a wild Atlantic island to the Arizona desert, from Baltimore to Bangkok. The contributors speak with authority on problems facing us all, whether railing against the errors of past generations, reveling in their own adaptability, or insisting on a collective responsibility to do better. In Coming of Age at the End of Nature, insightful millennials – some well published and others appearing in print for the first time – express their anger and love, dreams and fears, and sources of resilience for living and thriving on our shifting planet.
Growing Together in a Changing Climate: The United Nations, Young People, and Climate Change, edited by UNFCCC staff. (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2012, 40 pages, free download)
Growing Together in a Changing Climate: The United Nations, Young People, and Climate Change [describes] many of the climate change initiatives – projects, campaigns, educational tools, websites and publications – produced by the United Nations and young people, independently or in partnership. The initiatives presented in this publication are categorized broadly according to the key elements of Article 6 of the UNFCCC: (1) Youth participation in climate change issues, (2) Education and training, and (3) Youth awareness and access to information. United Nations agencies whose work includes children, youth and climate change, as well as recognized youth organizations were invited to contribute to this publication. The responses received were reviewed and complemented with information readily available from publicly available websites and publications.
Are We Screwed? A Millennial’s Guide to Climate Change, by Geoff Dembicki (Bloomsbury Books, Scheduled for August 2017)
Like many millennials I was raised in a middle-class milieu more trustful of creativity than authority, and told if I pursued my dreams money and recognition would follow. Yet after pursuing them through four years of journalism school I graduated disoriented and broke into the recession. Among my cohort I was lucky to land steady work with The Tyee, and in addition to living through one global crisis after another, I now began to chronicle them. After six years of writing about ecological collapse, industrial greed, and a political system hostile to change, hope for the future was the last thing I expected to find. But recently I started to sense its faintest glimmers. The global grip of polluting companies is slowly slipping. Sustainability is becoming a cultural norm. Millennials, self-obsessed though we may be, are seeking alternatives to the consumer lifestyles that created our current mess. These felt to me like tremors of a generational shift.
[Readers can find the The Tyee articles that led to the book here.]
Research reports on millennials and climate change
Young Voices: How Do 18-25-Year Olds Engage with Climate Change, by Climate Outreach (Climate Outreach 2014, 33 pages, free download)
Research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them. Too many assumptions have been made by communicators. Young Voices uses Climate Outreach’s unique ‘Narrative Workshops’ method, which explores study participants’ values, aspirations and views on climate change before formulating different ‘narratives’ for testing short pieces of written text that use different language to describe climate change and climate policies. This allows careful attention to be paid to the words and phrases that people respond positively to, and provides a vehicle for building on the core values that underpin public engagement with climate change.
The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials’ Economic Future, by NextGen Climate and Demos (NextGen Climate and Demos 2016, 28 pages, free download)
This report quantifies the cost of climate change to millennials and their children, compared to a world without climate change. The climate change costs are compared to other significant economic burdens millennials will face over the course of their lifetime, including student debt, child care, stagnant wages, and the lack of good jobs. Without action on climate change, for example, a 21-year-old earning a median income will lose $100,000 in lifetime income, and $142,000 in wealth. For the children of millennials, the losses from climate change will be drastically greater. A child born in 2015 with median earnings will lose $357,000 in lifetime income and $581,000 in wealth. The economic losses caused by climate change are substantially greater than the damages of other economic challenges, [including student debt and losses from the Great Recession]. We must act quickly to address climate change because the impacts are occurring now faster and stronger than predicted.
Engaging Millennials for Ethical Leadership: What Works for Young Professionals and Their Managers, by Jessica McManus Warnell (Business Expert Press 2015, 180 pages, $34.95 paperback)
By 2020, half of America’s workforce will be millennials. In this era of transparency and accountability, explorations of effective organizations are inseparable from considerations of ethical leadership. Engaging Millennials for Ethical Leadership provides strategies for optimizing performance, drawing on emerging research and complemented with perspectives gleaned from students at a top-tier business school and from a diverse group of corporate executives. Jessica McManus Warnell is an associate teaching professor in the department of management/business ethics at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. She taught the first dedicated undergraduate Giving Voice to Values (GVV) course offered anywhere, beginning in 2008, developed in collaboration with GVV founder Mary C. Gentile. She also designed and has taught a popular undergraduate course called “Managing and Millennials” since 2012.
Research reports on millennials and politics
Over the last six years, in partnership with Achieve, the Case Foundation has studied, listened to and engaged with more than 75,000 members of the Millennial generation to better understand this fearless generation’s involvement with [politics] as part of the Millennial Impact Project. With the changing landscape in the U.S. brought on by a presidential election year, the research team wanted to understand how – or if – this generation’s philanthropic interests and involvement would change, as well. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report investigates how millennials’ engagement behaviors may be influenced by the emerging candidates for election or by important millennial demographics such as their political ideology, geographical location, age, gender and race/ethnicity. This study also examines millennials’ interest and activation in specific causes that may be differentiated by their support of a particular political party.
Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends, by Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center 2014, 69 pages, free download),
The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 33, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry – and optimistic about the future. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.
Millennial Generation: Will Today’s Young Adults Change American Society?, by Congressional Quarterly Researchers (Congressional Quarterly Press 2015, 24 pages, free download)
The nation’s 75 million Millennials – those 18 to 34 years old – are the largest generation in the United States. More Millennials are in the workforce than any other age group. [In 2016 and] in subsequent elections they will reign as the largest generational voting bloc. Millennials also are the most diverse generation in American history: More than 40 percent of them are nonwhite, a huge change from the 1950s, when the United States was nearly 90 percent white. But a weak job market, high levels of student debt and the 2007–09 recession slowed Millennials’ launch into successful adulthood, causing many to delay getting married, starting families and purchasing a home. The generation’s fortunes are beginning to pick up, however, leading to questions about whether Millennials will reshape the country in their own image – or will end up living much like older generations have in auto-dominated suburbs.
Climate fiction by millennials
Find Me: A Novel, by Laura Van Den Berg (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2016, 288 pages, $15.00 pap.)
After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel – a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world. Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house.
Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis (Harper Collins 2013, 380 pages, $17.99)
Fans of classic frontier survival stories, as well as readers of dystopian literature, will enjoy this futuristic story where water is worth more than gold. With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a frontier-like world not so different from our own. Teenage Lynn has been taught to defend her pond against every threat: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and most important, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty – or doesn’t leave at all. Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. But when strangers appear, the mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it.
The Carbon Diaries 2017, by Saci Lloyd (Holiday House 2010, 384 pages, $8.95 paperback)
In this riveting sequel to the hit eco-thriller The Carbon Diaries 2015, Laura Brown, now a college student in London, chronicles the struggle England faces as the government tightens its grip on carbon rations. Laura is juggling two love interests, and her eco-punk band, the dirty angels, keeps landing gigs, so life is good . . . until a crackdown on rioting students forces her to flee the city. Then, on the band’s European tour, Laura finds herself at the center of a series of dangerous events. The angels have always sung about fighting corruption. Is it time for Laura to join the underground resistance movement and actually practice what the dirty angels preaches?
As compulsively readable as its prequel, this book raises provocative moral questions for today’s young adults.
Editor’s Note: On November 29th, the Case Foundation released a five-year retrospective on its Millennial Impact Project, “Cause, Influence & the Workplace.”