Stein offers a reason for optimism about environmental alarmism

Worried about extreme environmentalism, the kind that ignores the need to weigh costs and benefits of proposed environmental regulations? Joel Stein‘s latest TIME column might offer a little solace.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State and the author of Generation Me, decided to find out if Gen Y-ers really do care about the planet as much as they claim. “I thought it was possible people are channeling their narcissism and need for positive response into being green,” she said. Twenge is so harsh that if she’d written those Tom Brokaw books, she would have described the Greatest Generation as cheap and too militaristic.

Turns out Gen Y is as green as an oil spill. In her study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology–which I normally get just for the pictures–Twenge found that today’s high school seniors and college freshmen make far less effort to help the environment than baby boomers did at that age. Compared with boomers and Generation X-ers, Gen Y-ers are the least willing to cut down on driving and electricity use. “There was a lot more questioning of materialism in the 1970s. Now it’s just like, Let’s all live like the Kardashians,” she said. Though in Gen Y’s defense, being a Kardashian back in the 1970s didn’t seem so great, since it involved a lot of hanging out with O.J. Simpson.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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