At the same time as our ability to learn and understand is expanding, so is the amount of knowledge and wisdom. Science is accomplishing and studying things generations past could only dream about. There are new avenues for study, new tools for processing, and new methods of distribution. We have a better understanding of this planet and how it works every time we open up our news apps.
Which leaves us as millennials in a weird place. The great machine of knowledge that is the internet is showing some trends. As it turns out, humans haven’t been treating the earth with the respect it deserves. We are also not treating other humans with the dignity they deserve. If we look, we are able to see gross inequity and suffering in the most prosperous era in human history and visible disintegration of the processes required to support life on the only place that we’re certain can support our species.
But where there are problems, there are also solutions. The problems we now face aren’t minor inconveniences, and if we don’t do something, there’s a pretty good chance it will be too late to completely recover from the damage we’ve caused.
The planet needs us immediately. We need to start thinking like the Iroquois – the name of the six joined Native American nations living in the Northeast United States and Canada. Decisions we make today need to be, in part, for the benefit of the generation 7 from now. I can’t replicate the quote with my own words and do it justice, so from Chief Oren Lyons writing of The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The great Binding Law:
With this idea, we begin to see where there will be tension. Our capitalist, American Dream, work-your-way-to-the-top, sports cars, enhancement surgeries, ego-driven ideals, the thought of making a decision with the intent to benefit someone else doesn't seem fair. We got to this point because people were focused on elevating their own quality of life, and now Millennials have to make decisions that put our own interests aside in favor of those of people we won't get to meet.
And yes, this will be good for my pocketbook as well since it will hopefully mean I’m able to spend less on my utilities. It’s not sexy, and it likely won’t pay for itself, but it’s how I will need to live to make room for the still growing population and the nature that I don’t want to lose.
But if we stop there, we’re the greatest generation since the Iroquois. What will set us apart is our concern and care for people across the planet. Apps like Twitter and Periscope allow us to spread raw news instantly across the globe. We can get cameras into plants that produce the electronics that keep us connected. We can witness the oppression of entire nations by powerful regimes. It’s what we do with this information that will make us the greatest.
Right now, if you’re curious for a specific example of human problems, you should ask your phone how many people die of hunger every year. One of the first results will tell you that 18,000 children die every day of hunger. And you’ll find that 850 thousand are hungry and malnourished. If curiosity then leads you to go on, you’ll find that it would take about 1/10th of the US’s military budget for the next decade to eliminate hunger. Maybe we could make some concessions here and overseas to make food available to everyone in the world.
And we care. The numbers support us tending in this direction. 61% of us feel personally responsible to change the world and 84% of us would rather know we’re doing good than get recognition at our jobs. A whopping 92% of our generation believes that we should judge the success of our businesses using more than just the profits.
It’s not going to be easy, especially since we’re so buried in debt we can hardly imagine not having student loan payments, car payments, mortgage payments, and credit card payments that we are trying to figure out what it means to have savings. We’ll have to get ourselves on the iPhone plan that renews every 2 years instead of every 12 months. Maybe we’ll live with more shared amenities instead of personal luxuries. We’ll be inventing amazing things in the near future to stop from burning fuels and creating waste, and we’ll be spreading wealth as far as we can. It’s the right thing to do. We can know and can see it. All we need to do now is change to adapt to this new understanding of what it takes to be a successful human. It’s up to Millennials, and we’re ready for the challenge and poised to create change.
And if any of the older generations have found themselves reading this, maybe consider a little less complaining about us living in your basement or retiring a bit early to help us out on our great millennial quest. We’d appreciate all the help we can get!