Young People Worldwide Face Huge Challenges, But We Can Find Solutions
Young people in the world have a lot of problems to contend with.
No, I'm not talking about the Internet connection going down in the middle of the "Game of Thrones" finale (though that would be terrible) or you happening to be out of town on the weekend your favorite band comes through. I want to get serious for a moment.
Take water, for example, the clear liquid that flows endlessly through your pipes and flushes your toilets, what you put into water bottles that you can refill time and again without a second thought.
In the world, 750 million people, which is about 10 percent of the global population, do not have access to clean water. A child dies every minute because of a disease related to water.
Women and children around the world spend millions of hours every day collecting water, greatly reducing the time they spend elsewhere, like at school, for example.
That's a problem. Makes you think twice about watering the lawn, right?
Now let's turn to youth unemployment. In some countries, most frequently in the developing world or in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, the percentage of unemployed youth crosses the 30 percent threshold.
That's at least one in three Millennials unemployed, often simply because of the economic situation in the country -- a situation that, of course, the affected youth had no hand in creating.
This leads to a lot of migration, which can be a terribly difficult thing to do when you're forced into it rather than naturally driven to venture out on your own.
Manmade global warming is another one of those issues that is going to hit us most of all as we head into adulthood, and we must face the fact that the world is changing.
The unprecedented drought in California -- which has now forced the governor to declare an official state of emergency -- is just one example of the effects our collective actions, as humans, have brought on.
The current refugee crisis in Europe is another example of a bigger problem that is having an inordinately strong effect on young people.
As refugees try to escape from dire situations of all kinds in Africa and the Middle East, they fall prey to smugglers in unsafe boats. Last year alone, 3,500 people died when their boats capsized in the Mediterranean.
Women and children are especially vulnerable groups even within that, but given the trouble at home -- particularly with the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS -- they often have no other choice.
Suffice it to say, there's a lot in this world that needs fixing, be it racial or religious violence, environmental issues or economic problems.
These are big problems, and although we didn't create them, they're falling on us to deal with them.
The thing is, we as a generation are uniquely positioned to fix them.
Maybe it's just the eternal optimist in me, but if we raise our voices and engage in the world, there's an awful lot we could change for the better.
With the water, for example: Every day the technology and ingenuity goes a little bit further and gets water for one more person without it.
Yes, it's expensive to invest in improved water infrastructure, but for every $1 invested, there's a $4 economic return. What are we waiting for?
Similarly, with climate change, clean power technology is progressing every day. One of the major hurdles in the battle to make the earth freer from pollution is the people currently in charge of major energy companies.
As we rise in power and start becoming the CEOs who would once have chosen fossil fuels because it's cheaper and easier, let us take another path. Let us repeat the Pope's words instead of the Koch brothers'.
We live in a world where sectarian violence and racially-based hatred is unfortunately all too common. In this case, it's not just the progression of technology that has left us uniquely equipped to start wiping this sort of thing off the face of the earth.
We're incredibly connected to each other in ways the previous generations never could have imagined.
We can share an article that a friend across the world sees, and then we can discuss it over Skype.
We can travel the world and, at the same time, be in constant contact with not only our friends and family back home, but also the people we meet along the way.
Ending racism is such a huge task that it's almost unimaginable, but like all huge tasks, it'll start with something small: a personal connection, an exchanged email address, a new friend of a different culture, race or religion and one less racist person.
Let's be those people, and let's be those people loudly.
We can team up with groups like the UN Youth Envoy to be even louder and make optimism like this sound less naïve. These are our problems, and we're going to fix them.
Citations: Millions lack safe water (Water.org), Unemployment youth total (The World Bank), Secretary Generals Envoy On Youth (United Nations), UN Youth Envoy (Twitter), California Drought (ca.gov), Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative Action Plan (UNHCR), Economics (Water.org), Pope Francis Revolution needed to combat climate change (CNN), Conservative thinktank seeks to change Pope Franciss mind on climate change (The Guardian)