Teenage angst no longer follows its normal recipe of religiously listening to punk rock while undergoing the extreme pains of growing up. Gen Z’s version includes the impending state of environmental upheaval that is hurtling toward us.
Another day, another article enters my notifications list with a headline that incorporates phrases like “global warming,” “record-breaking heat,” “scientists warn,” and “climate crisis.” While drinking my steaming hot cup of coffee, I read the climate section and am incapable of compartmentalizing that doomsday is not in 50 years – it is now.
California is a state prided on neverending drought, with artists like Albert Hammond capitalizing on this by writing a song called “It Never Rains in Southern California." To have the state experience “breaking news” levels of rain is yet another detrimental blow to scientists who are currently unequipped at mitigating weather disasters that deviate from normal meteorological patterns. The severity of atmospheric rivers – particularly those unleashed by storms titled “Pineapple Express” – only continues to increase, while infrastructure remains unequipped to deal with rain pounding the ground for long intervals. “Pineapple Express” storms originate in the tropics and eventually bring moisture to the dry West Coast. A previously cyclical pattern has been uprooted and has caused two words, “California” and “mega storm,” to be placed in the same sentence.
While the majority of the public will view this as another “boy who cried wolf” scenario, the anguish felt by the majority of the Gen Z population will experience an upwards tick. From scientists chaining themselves to banks whose revenue catapults via the connection to fossil fuel corporations to these same corporations accounting for about one-third of carbon emissions, Gen Z is presented with a unique set of circumstances: the ramifications of the monetary rat race of exponential industrialization finally unfolding.
For some the feeling of despair triumphs over anxiety. Numbness prevails as more promises are met with institutionalized stagnation. For one, many private equity companies will claim to re-organize their work in order to ensure greater sustainability measures. However, their portfolios differ with the main energy investments being in fossil fuels.
Accountability is nowhere, but calls for it are everywhere.
The idea of dismantling these systems is slowly becoming a distant memory and the premise of environmental activism no longer seems feasible. It feels as though there are too many battles and no victories. Like many, I feel as though the fight will forever flatline. With what is at stake, the idea of kickstarting a career in any given field and starting a family is obsolete.
Even the conferences that are supposed to force the brightest minds into the same city make me nauseous and disgusted. The inordinate amount of private jets filling the skies to reach Davos and previously held United Nations Climate Change Conferences serves as a dark reminder of the blatant hypocrisy of such summits. For the previous COP27 held in Egypt, upwards of 400 private jets flew into various airports. Let us not forget to mention how even with claims of maintaining inclusivity at COP, the exclusivity remains evident through the difficulties experienced by climate activists to obtain visas and the overall economic barrier to travel. Even more frightening, the next one will be hosted in Dubai, United Arab Emirates by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The irony is ricocheting off the walls. At least the Davos Agenda, a massive conference hosted by the World Economic Forum that helps find solutions on the everchanging globe, stays true to their claims of only allowing the wealthiest titans of given industries and governments to attend.
It would be inaccurate to not account for the little pockets of progress that have helped alleviate the all-encompassing unease. Scientists have started releasing noteworthy improvements on the Ozone layer healing to potential 1980s levels. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 was the start of phasing out substances that deplete it. Perhaps monumental change is possible. Therefore, every time the despair returns – which is essentially always – I find myself opening up my laptop and believing in this.
Nonetheless, the improvements are mundane in my mind. Sooner or later, the articles on the negatives will return to dominance. Even writing this piece reminds me of the other bodies of work that are a variation of this one. It is the same storyline. The world still propels itself closer and closer to more widespread climate catastrophe while the remnants of hope dwindle in the backdrop of oil rigs. The question is will the world alter its designated course? More importantly, will our immobility finally return to mobilization?
Lauren Gregorio is an Online Editor for Rowdy Magazine. In her free time, you can find her either blasting a rotation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Taylor Swift's discography into her ears thanks to her wired headphones, taking naps, or re-watching Modern Family.