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Youth Barometer: Climate change not dampening young people's optimism

Young people in Finland are more optimistic about life here than elsewhere on the planet.

Alisa Hollmén.
The Youth Barometer survey was conducted in early 2021, a year into the pandemic. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle
Yle News

Concerns about climate change are not eroding young people's confidence in the future. That's according to the results of the Youth Barometer, an annual survey measuring the values and attitudes of people in Finland aged 15-29.

The survey was conducted in early 2021, a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and with vaccinations just entering the Finnish market.

The results came as a surprise for Youth Council chairman Elisa Gebhard.

"Young people may already have had some hope of the pandemic ending and life returning to normal," Gebhard said.

Of the youth surveyed, 80 percent held "somewhat" or "very optimistic" views of their own future and that of Finland's overall.

The state of the world's future drew less optimism, with only 38 percent of the youngsters optimistic on that front.

Conducted before the war in Ukraine, possible worries caused by the conflict are not included in the results.

Empowered despite worries

The barometer results showed three-quarters of youth feeling "sad" about the loss of natural diversity.

Respondents, however, also reported feeling empowered, believing they can make a difference with their consumer choices, voting behaviour, and volunteer work in environmental organisations.

Attitudes towards climate strikes and other direct political action varied. Younger respondents viewed such measures as more effective than older respondents.

Gebhard noted that the surveyed youth are not a homogenous group. For example, a 28-year-old, fully-employed respondent can have a very different outlook from a 15-year-old still in school.

Finland's role in the world

The annual survey also traced how young people viewed Finland's role in working towards ending global poverty and protecting the planet.

The barometer asked respondents to rank the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 global targets designed to achieve a more sustainable future.

Although the survey was conducted before the war in Ukraine, respondents deemed that working to ensure peace was Finland's most important global goal.

"The results show first and foremost that despite climate change worries, young people feel they can affect change with their own actions," Gebhard said.

The barometer surveyed 1,835 people by telephone between December 2020 and March 2021.

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