Sunshine State News: Millennials Are Environmentalists but We're Also Realists about Energy

Article Posted on February 5, 2019

By: Makayla Buchanan, Sunshine State News

Coddled. Delicate. The “tea cup generation” that doesn’t know or appreciate where things come from, takes more than it gives back and must be handled with extra care.

As a millennial, born in 1997, those are my generation’s stereotypes.

Recently, a friend’s father said environmentalism was my generation’s new religion, that millennials wander aimlessly looking for a cause. That cause, I was told, is defending Mother Earth.

To some degree, that’s true.

But what’s misunderstood is the assumption that when it comes to the environment, we only care about renewable energy. That it's “wind and solar — or die!”

What an absurd notion, and quite frankly, ridiculous.  

As a young professional only a few years into my career, I’m far from being at the top of the salary payroll. Like other generations did starting out, I work hard to stretch every dollar.

Yes, I have high-efficiency appliances. I recycle. I unplug my Keurig after each use, and I make every effort to spend more time outdoors than indoors. I work hard and play hard. My free time belongs to me, and the term “overtime” means back-to-back hikes, not logging extra hours at the office.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand or appreciate how energy empowers my lifestyle. That includes fossil fuels. I may support wind and solar, but that doesn’t mean I hate or resent fossil fuels.

Like many, I don’t go anywhere without a computer in my pocket. I call, email, text, schedule and research almost everything I do on my phone — which is made with a combination of plastics, aluminum and processor chips from rare earth minerals, and is powered by electricity, which statistically is more likely to come from coal or natural gas than wind or solar power.

The furniture in my house is simple and modern, manufactured with a variety of woods, metals, synthetic materials and plastics commonly made from polypropylene resin, a plastic polymer with a range of uses, including car parts, diapers and, obviously, furniture.

The planes to my favorite travel destinations also run on jet fuel. Natural gas and coal-fired power plants produce the electricity used by manufacturers to make or fuel hybrid buses and carbon fiber-framed bikes.

While I do curiously wonder about what will power our future and what magic materials things will be made of — or how artificial intelligence will intuitively run our power grid — I also understand and respect what powers my everyday life and allows me to live the life I want to live. That’s fossil fuels.

Do I consider myself an environmentalist? You bet I do. That’s because I have researched and learned the term “environmentally friendly” isn’t always what it seems to be, and we must acknowledge the fact that some of the products made from greener substitutes are inferior, can be depleted or need someplace to grow…

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