Opinion: Gen Z needs to stop being selfish during the COVID-19 pandemic


People in Audubon park workout together on April 10, despite social distance guidelines. Photo courtesy of Ariana Bozzo.

Rae Walberg

As the Gen Z generation, we know the current feeling all too well: Feeling helpless in the face of the future.

With the Earth warming 1.62 degrees fahrenheit since the 19th century and little action being taken, many of us believe that climate change will have laid a claim to our lives if nothing gets done soon.

So we rally in the streets. We spew chants and firmly hold our signs, but we continue to feel unsettled under the façade of Fridays for The Future.

We believe we were robbed by the older, more gluttonous generations. We cite how the world changed rapidly in their hands — how microplastics were invented, how carbon emissions rose to alarming rates, how water in many places became undrinkable and air, unbreathable.

But we fail to recognize that we are robbing others of their futures too. In fact, in a much shorter amount of time.

COVID-19 has affected more than 200 countries and plagued more than 200,000 people in The United States, and while most of us young people are spared from having to bear the severity of this disease, we have been diagnosed as “the carriers” — those who spread the disease due to failed social distancing and communal action.

As young people naturally do, we feel invincible, unbothered that much of the rest of the world is quarantined to their bedrooms. We continue to party, hang out in large groups, joke about “social distancing” and “Corona who?,” become infected and infect the rest of the community. And we continue to feel sorry for ourselves for being forced to take precautions and cancel plans because we believe, “we are not the ones infected.”

When I scroll through social media, I can’t help but become disappointed in our generation which has taken nationwide school closures as an extended Summer break. I have always rendered our generation as, for the most part, righteous and driven, but our reaction proves our flaws of hypocrisy and carelessness.

Regarding the environmental movement which mobilizes many of us, why should we expect the older generations to listen to our problems when we fail to listen to theirs? Why should they act on behalf of our future when we have been failing to protect theirs? And why should we expect a future of solidarity when we refuse to join efforts to halt the spread of the disease?

While ignorance may be a coping mechanism for fear, we, as the future leaders of our country need to take action. We need to sit on the couch, wash our hands and maybe, just maybe, they will become inspired enough to help us fight for our future too.