Young People and the Environment: Between Fatalism and Misinformation

How do young people in France perceive environmental issues, and to what extent are their concerns reflected in their behaviour? As with any approach based on generational differences, this question needs to be addressed carefully to avoid resorting to stereotypes.

A number of recently published surveys highlight the discrepancy between young people’s strong awareness of environmental degradation and their behaviours, which continue to be largely geared towards hyper-consumption. This discrepancy can be explained by three main factors: the fatalism of the younger generation with regard to environmental issues, the existence of other concerns, and their lack of information about the behavioural changes they could make.

Young people in France are aware of environmental issues, but are particularly fatalistic

According to a survey carried out in 2023 by the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), almost 80% of 15-25 year-olds say they attach more importance to environmental issues than those around them do. The majority believe that “the world is in a bad way”, marked as it is by a succession of endless crises with no prospect of improvement. They attribute this situation to over-consumption and over-production, but also to the greedy and selfish nature of human beings. As a result, a majority of the young people questioned feel that “it is already too late to limit climate change before it has devastating effects, or consider that they have no say in the fight against climate change”. Three-quarters of young people also believe that their parents’ generation is responsible for the current situation.

According to another survey conducted by Ifop for the Fondation de France, half of 18-25 year-olds say they are worried about future generations, almost a third feel that “it’s too late, there’s nothing we can do”, and almost a quarter “don’t feel they can take effective action”. This expectation of a very bleak future is frequently expressed by young people in France: for example, in a survey carried out in 2021, three-quarters of the young people questioned considered the future to be “frightening” because of global warming.

According to another survey conducted by Opsio and the platform Backmarket among school students in Paris, this fatalism can lead some young people to turn their backs on environmental issues altogether. The reasons given for this include (again) the feeling that “it’s already too late”, but also a perception that “it makes life too complicated”, and the idea that they will not be able to change things by acting on their own small scale.

Young people in France feel powerless and disengaged with regard to environmental issues

Source: Opsio survey for Backmarket.

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