66% of under-21’s interviewed for a major investigation believe that by 2031 the world’s oil reserves will have been depleted.
Further, 91% believe the effects of climate change will have been felt.
Students across the country were polled by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in conjunction with charity Forum for the Future, in order to ascertain their views on the world they will come to inherit. A total of 54,240 students responded to the survey; 36,768 were between the ages of 16-18, 12,006 were 19, and 5,466 were between 20 and 21.
The survey is the first of its kind and offers a glimpse into the psyche of tomorrow’s leaders.
76% of those polled think that “radical” changes are necessary if human civilisation is to survive the next century; over four-fifths think government should shoulder the responsibility for change, followed closely by individuals (69%), and then business (47%). Interestingly, 32% believe the media should instigate change, while 4% rely on celebrities to push the agenda forward.
One respondent was quoted as saying: “I don”t read the newspapers anymore because they remind me that the world we live in is all going wrong”.
James Cumby, 18, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Only when the mindset of previous generations becomes extinct will real progress have been made”.
79% of respondents believe that a satisfying and interesting job will be important to their happiness for the next ten years. And in terms of the environment, 62% think that in ten years” time, they will have “deliberately purchased food produced locally rather than imported”; 34% will have “deliberately avoided large chain stores and favoured locally-owned shops when buying food”.
Mark Jones, 21, from the University of Birmingham, said of the environmental debate: “There is not a clear enough understanding of sustainability. The very basis of our interaction with each other is the key to solving most of our self-created problems. Such problems must be addressed at their source, globally, before it is too late”.
And in light of recent news coverage over aircraft carbon emissions, 67% of students declared that they would continue air flights despite their environmental effects.
Sam Coates, 18, from Exeter University, said: “If the current generation decides to really tackle the climate change crisis, I believe that the world will indeed be a better place. It will mean a transition to an economic system which does not encourage competition and consumption, but cooperation and empathy”.
Responding to the report, National Union of Students (NUS) President Gemma Tumelty said: “This survey sends a clear message from our generation to the government, to political parties, to business and to society as whole; to say that climate change and sustainable development are issues which need to be taken very seriously. All stakeholders in today’s society must act now to ensure the future that young people face is worth inheriting”.
“Interestingly, what the survey also shows is that contrary to what is sometimes suggested, students do not simply choose the university course they think will earn them the most money further down the line. Clearly, despite the high premium that students now have to pay for their education, financial gain is not the sole motivation for students going to university, and rightly so”.
Fiona, an 18 year-old student on her gap year, noted in the report: “Perhaps the next question our generation needs to ask itself is “What am I going to do to impact the world for the better in 25 years” time?”
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