Young people fear for the future says survey

Posted: 26 January 2007

In 25 years the oil will run out and tigers will be extinct in the wild, according to a uniquely wide-ranging survey in the UK of young people's expectations of the future.

The survey by the sustainable-development charity Forum for the Future and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), showed that those surveyed believe lifestyles will need to change radically if human civilisation is to survive into the next century.

The Future Leaders Survey 2006-2007 provides an insight into the hopes, fears and expectations of 54,240 of the UK's brightest young people - respondents to a questionnaire sent to all university and college applicants aged 17-21 for the academic year 2006-2007. The findings suggest a widespread sense that today's business and political leaders are failing us on climate change but provide a powerful mandate from young people to take radical action.

Asked to consider what the world will be like in 25 years, a narrow majority expect quality of life in the UK to have improved but 91 per cent think climate change will be hitting hard and 80 per cent think inequality between rich and poor countries will grow. Two thirds believe global oil reserves will have run out and 70 per cent think tigers will be extinct in the wild. Most are optimistic that human civilisation will survive into the next century, but 76 per cent believe lifestyles need to change radically across the board or in many areas for this to be achieved.

"The Future Leaders Survey is a wake-up call for today's leaders in government and business," says Peter Madden, Chief Executive of Forum for the Future. "These young people are likely to be powering the economy and running the country in 25 years. They are very concerned about climate change and think that big changes are needed to ensure they inherit a sustainable world."

Women less optimistic

Survey respondents think of themselves as more affected by crime, less healthy, more worried about the future and more materialistic than their parents' generation. Yet they still look more for their own future happiness to non-material things such as having an interesting job (regarded as 'very important' by 79 per cent) or spending time with family and friends (59 per cent%) than to material aims like a well-paid job (33 per cent) or owning a car (26 per cent) or having the latest gadgets (4 per cent).

The report highlights interesting differences between men and women. Women respondents to the survey are less optimistic about the future than their male counterparts, feel more strongly that change is needed and are more prepared to contribute to that change. Whereas 55 per of men think it very likely that human civilisation will survive into the 22nd century, only 39 pewr cent of women feel the same way. Women are more likely to have walked or cycled or bought local food for environmental reasons. They are also more likely to rate environmental issues as important in deciding how to vote, which car to drive, who to work for and who to bank with..

Walking or cycling instead of travelling by car (62 per cent) was the form of environmental action suggested in the survey questionnaire that had already been taken by the most respondents.

Forty per cent had bought locally produced food instead of imports,34 per cent had avoided large chain stores and favoured locally owned shops and 22 per cent had taken part in a demonstration or protest march. Twenty-six per cent had joined a Third World development charity and 14 per cent an environmental charity or pressure group.

The Future Leaders Survey 2006-2007 was published on January 24, 2007