Bernardo M. Villegas
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Millennials` Role in Protecting Environment (Part 3)

          Now and in the coming twenty to thirty years, the young generation, i.e., those who are 30 years or under, will constitute close to 70 per cent of the Philippine population.  In fact, the Philippines is often praised by economic analysts looking for attractive investment sites in the world for having a “young, growing and English-speaking population.”   From the macroeconomic point of view, this means that the Philippine economy will continue to grow for a long time on the basis of consumption spending, although government policy will also stimulate investment spending.  That means that the Philippine economy will have at least two powerful engines of growth, consumption and investment.  Millennials will be among those who will constitute the majority of Filipino consumers for some time to come.

         In this regard, millennials should take into account the following words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si (par. 206): “A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.  This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products.  They prove successful in changing the way business operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production.  When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently.  This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.  ‘Purchasing is always a moral—and not simply economic—act.’  Today, in a word, ‘the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.’ “

         As they form their respective families, millennials must be the first ones to rebel against the evil of consumerism, the ideology that makes human fulfilment depend exclusively on the amount of wealth, goods and services one can accumulate in a lifetime.  St. John Paul II condemned this mindset as even worse than materialism based on atheism such as the Marxist philosophy.  At least, Marxism is consistent as a philosophy of life:  since there is no God, no spirit, only matter, then one can live for earthly purposes alone.  Many consumerists say they believe in God and in the spirit but act as if there were no God, no spirit by making wealth accumulation the end-all and be-all of their lives.

         Since we are moving into a stage of the economy in which the vast majority of families will be enjoying high middle-income status (average annual income of $10,000 to $15,000), young couples must incorporate into their child rearing practices what Pope Francis calls “environmental education.”  He complains, though, that most people understand environmental education, aimed at creating an ‘ecological citizenship,’ as merely providing information and is not geared towards values formation, towards instilling good habits.  As he wrote in Laudato Si: “The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct, even when effective means of enforcement are present.  If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond.  Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment.  A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment.  There is nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real change in lifestyle.  Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.  All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings.  Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.”  Indeed, as a famous Architect remarked, “God is in the details!”

(To be continued)