Photo by Callum Shaw via Unsplash

The Kids Are Pissed Off & Want Climate Action

Part IV: Rethinking Economic Systems to Grow Climate Resiliency

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: Gen Z and Millennials are rightfully reacting to the increasing threat of the climate crisis and they are calling for economic changes before itโ€™s too late.

In Case You Missed It: The Plight of the Imperial Mode of Living

Iโ€™ve been seeing news stories pop up here and there that have stopped me in my tracks. They illustrate everyday injustices exacerbated by the pandemic that we seem to be forced to live with now.

The common thread is that wealth inequality is expanding and making our everyday lives more difficult, while our institutions continue to claim that the current systems are working just fine.

But itโ€™s actually not fine.

Itโ€™s time to address the elephant in the room.

Capitalism and the neoliberal order of deregulation and shareholder value have led us to a society that is barely functioning.

Would a functioning society have a months-long baby formula shortage?

Or have its cost of living grow so much that people canโ€™t afford the only transportation option for most Americans: cars?

Or a drastic rise in the unhoused population as evictions soar?

The capitalism that my generation knew in our childhoods is gone and has been replaced by the Robber Barons of the late 19th century. Everything has become commodified and we have become siloed and cut off from connection with one another.

My Generation is Pissed

For all the think pieces opining the laziness, depression, and anxieties of the Millennial and Gen Z generations, it seems pretty obvious to me what is behind all of this as a member of the generation.

Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in a world of constant instability. We have less wealth than any other previous generations, but far more debt ($3.8 trillion in case you were asking). Weโ€™ve grown up with the constant violence from guns and bigotry. And most of us have been robbed of the typical path that our Boomer parents promised. Good luck owning a house in this economy!

And itโ€™s clear that our experiences have led us to be more progressive than previous generations. We believe in social justice, we want a New Deal-style bigger government, weโ€™re hella queer, we see the racial inequities and want them fixed, and we know the reality of the climate crisis and want bold action from our leaders. Simply put, we want a multiracial democracy that supports all of its people no matter their identity, not just the 1%.

Weโ€™ve grown up in this world and only watched our economic prospects worsen as our political and literal climates are crumbling. Watching the climate crisis worsen while leaders continue not to act has led many to consider alternatives.

There has been a notable uptick in negative views about capitalism with only 22% of Gen Z having a very favorable view and Millennials being nearly split down the middle in their views on capitalism.

The obvious โ€œsecretโ€ that news outlets donโ€™t get is that Millennials and Gen Z are less likely to support capitalism precisely because of the climate crisis.

โ€œThe end of Greedflation must surely come. Otherwise, we may be looking at the end of capitalism. This is a big issue for policymakers that simply cannot be ignored any longer.โ€

We are not ignorant as many op-eds would have you believe. We see the future if we continue on this track and the math ainโ€™t mathinโ€™.

The Youth Want Action

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling its latest report a โ€œfinal warningโ€ for governments and institutions to act to stave off the climate crisis. Scientists have long stated that if global average temperatures surge by 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, it will lead to irreversible climate destruction.

โ€œIf we act now, we can still secure a liveable, sustainable future for all,โ€ โ€“ IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee

We have already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius and are pacing to reach 1.5 degrees by the first half of the 2030s. Thatโ€™s less than 10 years away. A decade is a blip. For Boomers, itโ€™s only 15% of their lives.

Itโ€™s hard to truly picture what climate destruction will look like, but the last few years of unprecedented weather, species extinction, rapid glacial melting, and sea level rise give us just a hint of what could be coming if we do not make drastic changes in our economy and society.

A New Approach

It only makes sense that younger generations are searching for alternatives to a system in which they never had a chance to succeed. Luckily, there are alternatives that address both of the core issues of these generations: social justice and the climate crisis.

In recent years, economists, academics, and activists who recognize the threat that our current economic structures pose on the climate have come up with alternative visions. The vision that has gained the most steam was outlined in an April 2020 manifest from academics in the Netherlands.

The manifesto called for post-neoliberal development through 5 policy strategies that centered the climate and equitable economic justice. The policies included:

  1. a move away from 'development' focused on aggregate GDP growth;
  2. an economic framework focused on redistribution;
  3. transformation towards regenerative agriculture;
  4. reduction of consumption and travel;
  5. debt cancellation.

Thus the degrowth movement was born!

Degrowth has since gained momentum across the globe with many local organizations and governments already implementing some of itโ€™s policies. What makes degrowth different from other critiques of the current state of capitalism is that it is both a critique of the present and a visionary goal with actual solutions behind it.

Itโ€™s not a fanciful idea of a utopian world, but a practical view of where humanity finds itself and the steps we can take to fixing it. Itโ€™s an opportunity to democratize our economy and technology to hape a world better for the people and the planet. Itโ€™s a framework for a just future.

For our final week on the economic systems and climate, we will dig into what degrowth is, what itโ€™s not, and the alternative visions that are already being implemented around the world.

Next Up:

Degrowth | The Climate Solution Already Within Reach
Part IV: Rethinking Economic Systems to Grow Climate Resiliency
๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒ The Climate Crisis๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿค‘ Economics & Capitalism

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.