How green are Millennials? Not very

Green? Schmean.  Young Americans are less interested in environmental issues than baby boomers and Gen Xers were at the same age, concludes a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Over the last four decades, in young people have lost trust in others and interest in government; they spend less time thinking about social problems. And they’re not all that keen on green, notes AP.

Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers—and 21 percent of Millennials—said the same.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.

Young baby boomers and Gen Xers were much more likely than Millennials to say they’ve tried to conserve electricity and fuel used to heat their homes.

One professor says the younger generation has less contact with “unpaved” nature.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Biology Professor  Richard Niesenbaum estimates 5 to 10 percent of students are environmentalists, 5 percent are hostile to environmentalism and 85 to 90 percent are OK with protecting the environment and conserving resources, but not interested in being “seriously inconvenienced or paying a cost to do so.”

Perhaps Millennials are burned out on green.

Brown bagging without the bag

For School Lunches, Hold the Plastic Sandwich Bag, writes the New York Times. Some schools are requiring waste-free lunches — everything must be edible, compostable or reusable — to cut down on garbage and promote “green” values.

Brown baggers are supposed to buy neoprene lunch bags; plastic containers are replacing plastic sandwich bags. Aluminum water bottles are in; plastic throwaways are out.

“Ziplocs are the biggest misstep,” said Julie Corbett, a mother in Oakland, Calif., whose two girls attend a school with an eco-friendly lunch policy. In school years past, she said, many a morning came unhinged when the girls were sent to school with disposable sandwich bags.

“That’s when the kids have meltdowns, because they don’t want to be shamed at school,” Ms. Corbett said. “It’s a big deal.”

At the very least, it’s a first-world problem.

Judith Wagner, a Whittier College education professor, is trying to persuade parents at the lab school to pack less wasteful lunches.

“Parents will say things like, ‘Well, I want her to have a choice, and if I put in a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and a ham sandwich, she has a choice,’ ” Professor Wagner said. “And each one comes in its own separate plastic bag.”

What comes next, she said, is a hard call. “Do you go back to the parents and say, ‘Gosh, can you rethink the plastic bags and all this food?’ Or do you talk to the children, and you make the children feel guilty because they’re throwing this all away?”

Forget about the plastic bags. Who packs a throwaway sandwich so little Emma can have a choice at noon instead of making up her mind at 7 am?

Sales of paper bags and sandwich bags are declining. Retailers offer a host of eco-friendly lunch containers.

At the Container Store, popular items this year include Japanese bento-box-style lunch boxes, Bobble water bottles with built-in filters, reusable cotton sandwich bags called snackTaxis, and PeopleTowels, machine-washable napkins.

In Oakland, Sally Corbett complains that plastic containers require cleaning and aren’t cheap, especially if they get lost.  For field trips, she packs sandwiches in waxpaper. “It’s still a no-no because you’re still having to throw that away, but it is biodegradable, it does compost, so you’re not as guilty,” she said.

It’s a religion, writes Andrew Stuttaford.


Environmentalism without science

Schoolchildren have embraced environmentalism with much enthusiasm but little knowledge, writes Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, in Forbes.

For last year’s Earth Day, for example, sixth-grade students at a tony private school near San Francisco were given this bizarre assignment: Make a list of ways Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates’ fortune could be spent on environmentally friendly projects. There was no hint that systematic market-based incentives for people and businesses could protect the environment–merely that it is OK to appropriate wealth from someone as long as it’s for a good cause.

At a public school north of San Francisco, fifth-graders studied the disappearance of honeybees: U.S. colonies have declined by two-thirds. “They made graphs and charts, created pamphlets in English and Spanish and wrote letters to dozens of local and national politicians.”

The kids became particularly concerned about the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the technical name for the bees’ wholesale disappearance from hives, a subject that would have created an excellent teaching opportunity about biology, agriculture and logic — if only they had been given sufficient and accurate information. “Nobody’s sure what’s killing them,” summed up one of the students. “Mites, pesticides, radiation from cellphones, humans, global warming and not enough wildflowers. We’re not sure. There’s a lot of probable causes.”

In fact, the student’s “probable” causes aren’t probable at all, Miller writes. No scientific evidence  supports mites, pesticides, cellphones, etc. CCD is associated with an infectious fungus called Nosema ceranae. Students could have discussed correlation and causation and learned how scientists designed experiments to figure out if the fungus was destroying hives and what to do about it.

Too often the objective of student projects seems to be “empowering” the kids and giving them a feeling of accomplishment instead of getting the right answer and learning scientific principles.

How many elementary teachers know enough about science to teach scientific principles? I’m leaning more and more toward training math-science specialists for upper-elementary grades.

In other news, an Iranian cleric says that women dressed in sexy clothing cause extramarital sex, which causes earthquakes.