Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Culture of Narcissism and the Environment

On March 15 the Washington Post had an article titled: "Young Americans less interested in the environment than previous generations" by Martha Irvine

[excerpted] — "They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today’s young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study’s authors. “We have the perception that we’re getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we’re not.

Majia here: The study found that young people spent less time considering social problems than in the past. The authors noted that "steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment and in taking personal action to save it."
The original study can be found here
I strongly suspect that the reason for this lack of concern for the environment stems from this generation's media saturation.
These kids (some now young adults) -- even those that are economically deprived -- spend countless hours each day immersed in mediated realities cultivated to appeal just to them.
Children became the no-holds market for producers in the 1980s when regulations about advertising and programming for children were loosened or lifted altogether.
Considerable social science has been applied to the problem of appealing to, and persuading, children over the last 3 decades.
On top of commercial television and cinematic culture, this generation of young people has been beguiled by various mediums of computer gaming and electronic toys.
As kids, Generation Y is encouraged to consider themselves at the center of an extensively consumer-related universe.
Their media culture values friendship, courage and perseverance, but intellectual endeavors, sacrifice, scarcity, and environment are largely absent from their universe.

Consequently, Generation Y is very narcissistic -- me oriented -- and they often lack discipline and regard for the broader social and environmental consequences of the consumer-based lifestyles they expect as their due.

I write this as someone who has been teaching college students continuously since 1987.

I've noticed that these kids litter without regard. Hopefully this particular problem is solely in AZ where I live.

In my opinion Generation Y could not be more poorly prepared for the economic and environmental challenges that await them.

The national economy has few opportunities for these young people when they graduate from college. Yet, they've been socialized to think that the workforce will embrace them with loving arms.

Our environment is at risk as fresh water supplies dwindle, polluted air prevails, and vital resources such as oil and rare minerals become less available.

These problems stem from generations of over-consumption and lack of regard for environmental sustainability. 

Generation Y is not responsible for the disasters and challenges they have inherited.

Generation Y embodies in their narcissism and heedless consumption patterns the values we have socialized them with; but, alas, these are precisely the values that have led to our current predicaments.
In my opinion, our survival as a species is at a critical juncture and our newest generation to achieve adulthood is mesmerized by images of endless consumption in electronic screens.
The Matrix Prevails.

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