I always learn so much when our young adult children are around. This Fall Break we enjoyed a good meal with offspring number 2 and 3, both college students, both Environmental Majors. The conversation turned to what they are learning in their classes, followed by curiosity about what the challenges may be for their generations, one a Millennial and the other Generation Z. Somehow we started talking about the challenges of the Builder Generation who’s focus was building a great society after the last great war. Our parents we part of that generational cohort. Then we Baby Boomers were about discovering our individuality right in the midst of excessively homogeneous suburban culture. Now what will be the significant challenges for our young adult children as they move into the future? Here’s what we identified.
Climate Change – They will need their best brain power to help the human race adapt to a warmer, dryer, and less predictable habitat here on planet earth.
Food Distribution – One informed us there’s enough food produced to feed all 7 billion of us. The problem is distribution and food sharing. Sharp minds will be needed to resolve the tension over food.
Exponential Population Growth – We don’t yet know the extent of the problems which come from this many people on this crowded planet.
Global Problems – As population grows, the planet warms, and technology improves….the human family will face problems which will take collaborative efforts to solve.
Affordable Housing – Fewer young adults see home ownership in their future, compared to their parents’ home ownership opportunities.
So, what are my takeaways from listening to and learning from our bright offspring?
- Everything is interconnected, and more so in the future. We clearly see our interdependence in financial markets. When one economy is suffering, world markets react. So, isolationist approaches will hold us back. Going it alone, if that ever was productive, will be even more problematic as large-scale problems rise. We will need our best collective intelligence and collaboration to resolve what’s ahead.
- For the human race to do well in the near future, we are going to need more maturity from ourselves and our leaders than before. We are going to need some large-soul people in leadership; those who recognize it’s about the human family, not one particular tribe of humans. We need the best in ourselves to rise to the surface and grow activated, working for the common good of us all. Mature leaders recognize we are all on this planet together, working collaboratively to solve the challenges coming toward us quickly.
- We need faith traditions with the power to transform societies and cultures toward the better. If our faith tradition does not include a hopeful vision for humanity (get your escape ticket punched and then just hold on until evacuation day), then it won’t be much use. If our faith tradition solves problems for some people but leaves others out (God bless us, but sorry about them), then it won’t get us to where we need to go. When our faith tradition has the power within it to transform earth and its peoples toward the good, then we can live with hope.
So now I’m praying. I’m praying that emerging generations will take what we’ve given them and improve on it. I’m praying they will become more mature than are we. I pray leaders will rise among them who have expansive perspectives, caring for all God’s children on this planet. In the meantime, life’s not over for me and my generation. It’s time to be the change we hope to see in this world. May we live into our best selves, becoming the people God believes us to be.