Environmental Awareness and Holistic Thinking

Posted by: eric on October 20, 2009 at 1:39 am

Because Generation We has been raised from infancy in the midst of a reawakening awareness of the fragility of the environment and an appreciation for its value, they are uniquely positioned to consider the long-term environmental impacts of everything they do. This is a natural remedy for the short-term thinking that has dominated most human behavior and that has helped to create our current dilemmas.

What’s more, the heightened environmental awareness of Generation We encourages them to take a holistic approach to the problems they face. They are accustomed to thinking about the world as a set of interlocking systems that have profound, complex effects on one another, and they are acutely aware—perhaps more so than previous generations—of how the law of unintended consequences can produce devastating results when interactions aren’t considered and planned for.

Millennials are inclined to extend this holistic mode of thinking beyond the natural world and into the social, economic, and political realms. When discussing problems in our focus groups, the Millennials routinely brushed aside the boundaries between the government, business, non-profit, academic, and civic worlds. They are impatient with dogmatic or ideological “rules” about the proper spheres of action for various kinds of organizations, and instead are accustomed to thinking pragmatically about how social groups and institutions can cooperate in search of solutions that serve society as a whole.  Former Vice President Al Gore said it well:

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action.

Generation We has embraced Gore’s insight. Whether the most effective answer to a global problem can come from a government agency, or a for-profit business, or a university researcher, or a volunteer group, Generation We is happy to embrace it. For them, this is one world, and the combined efforts of everyone are required to make and keep it healthy.

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