The number one cause teens feel passionately about is climate change. This concern and these numbers have increased over the past decade with 71% saying that climate change is an immediate threat to life. Source.
Most of us adults are “missing it.” As we adults are also worrying about the increases in strange weather patterns we have been suffering from during the past 10 years.
In interview after interview teens are saying such things as:
“Climate change is destroying the earth and my generation will probably be the last.”
“I think my generation faces the problem of global warming, since if we don’t handle it, the world could become uninhabitable very quickly.”
“I was watching a YouTube video last night on the perils of plastic and this has my anxiety increasing even more.”
Teens really believe that the world is going to end. This is a statement filled with fear.
I grew up in the 1970s when Christians were sure that Jesus was going to return soon. When we watched the movies “A Thief in the Night” (full movie available on YouTube!) and “A Distant Thunder” (also full movie available on YouTube complete with warning for children). When those movies filled us with fear and sometimes we made decisions wondering if Jesus would return at that very moment we were sinning.
I’m talking about that kind of fear in today’s teens. But they aren’t waiting for Jesus to return and take them home to heaven. I wish they were! They are waiting for us adults to continue to destroy the planet so they will not be able to grow old on this planet.
This fear has only been strengthened from the COVID-19 worldwide timeout. Because in only a month’s time of humans being kept inside, the world has healed dramatically. The air has cleaned up (the air from Boston to Washington is its cleanest since a NASA satellite started measuring nitrogen dioxide in 2005); the seismic activity in California has calmed down (maybe due to so many cars now off the roads); animals are roaming the streets; this may be the best hatching season for sea turtles ever as people are off the beaches. All of this change in just one month of less human activity.
In typical Gen Z and Millennial language, we are inundated with memes about this message.
Some of these are brilliantly funny.
#wearethevirus. Think about what that hashtag is saying and why it has become so popular.
This message is not going to be forgotten by a generation who has real fears that the earth won’t be around for them to grow old on.
I have long believed, and am supported by some scientist friends of mine, that the earth is stronger than we realize and can withstand our human damage. This belief has been supported all the more by how quickly the earth healed during our COVID-19 shutdown. I can believe this and find supporting evidence but this is not enough to change the real fear our teens feel today. This is a fear we need to pay attention to.
Paying attention to this fear does not make us “tree huggers” or “leftist environmentalists protecting the spotted owl” or other labeling people use to divide us and depersonalize us. Which is a badly justified way we use to deal with our own fears.
Paying attention to this fear may be a way we can reach the teens with the good news of Jesus.
Because God loves his world. God loves his creation. He has the whole world in his hands (another ‘70s reference!). Scripture is clear on this.
If God loves his world–and that world is being threatened by a changing climate—creation is affected. Particularly the most vulnerable whether that be plants, animals, and especially people.
The way we treat creation reflects the way we treat God who is the Creator.
Making personal green choices is a way to follow Jesus. Learning about how you can make green choices is a form of discipleship.
We love God by loving the world that he loves. We love our others by speaking out for their right to live their lives on a habitable planet that is threatened by rising seas, acidic oceans and crop-destroying droughts.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful for Christians to lead on this? Thankfully this is happening more and more. Look for it.
You lead on this too. Our teens need to see us, Christian leaders and Christian parents, leading on this.