From occasional partner-in-crime Keith Farnish (and author of _Times Up_) comes a scathing but accurate indictment of superficial youth environmentalism.
I have met some incredible young people with vision, passion and the willingness to stick two fingers up at the system in order to create some kind of change. I have learnt from some young people what it feels like to be a concerned person in a society that values shopping, celebrity and vacations above the fundamental need to have a functioning ecosystem. I have seen young people cry – including my own children – at the thought that certain types of humans are capable of such horrific acts in the pursuit of wealth and status. Oh, that I had such knowledge at such an early age – what could I have done by now?
Well, if I had been Ally Maize, I could have got to meet Miley Cyrus, Renee Zellweger and that prime example of eco-conscious thinking, Paris Hilton. I could also, as per the above introduction to GYM, have become utterly deluded that small, superficial actions create big change; adopted the lie that politicians have any part to play in a sustainable future; in order to alienate part of my audience entirely, I would have referred to “teens” as “young children”; and finally, I would have got my parents to by me an electric car for when I passed my driving test – well, she does live in Beverly Hills…
The easy answer to this is that she could be a teenager like any other, and what she’s doing is at least better than that. But I’m not so sure that’s an answer. There are too many serious environmental youth leaders all over the world who do real things to valorize someone who implies that we don’t have to make deep changes in our consumer culture.
Besides, as Farnish observes:
Some might say I’m being harsh on a 17 year old, but then not all 17 year olds have their Mom and Dad to buy them an electric car with custom plates, employ a huge “Board of Advisors” or pay for a PR company which doesn’t even bother to check the nature of the people to which they send out press releases.
It is a tough balancing act to model a real and decent life – it is easy to mock celebrities, but so much of our culture is celebrity culture that we need public figures to make a stand. At the same time, we need to be really careful about the kind of messages we’re sending – because the more we tell kids that they can have everything they want, and nothing really has to change, the angrier they are going to be when it does anyway.