By Madeleine Post, Staff Writer
The common misconception that millennials experience community solely through social media is a false stereotype. In fact, millennials are wildly successful at creating vibrant communities--communities that overcome some of the most difficult challenges facing our generation. From reducing waste to developing new educational models, millennials are utilizing the power of human community to create a new, global culture for successful generations to come.
The Environmental Challenge
In his book The Hungary Soul, philosopher and M.D. Leon Kass makes a pretty startling argument about the communal aspect of eating. Community is often centered around food — around a common meal. Whether you’re enjoying Thanksgiving dinner or splitting a bag of popcorn, the practice of sharing a meal is one of the most communal activities known to the history of human kind.
Centered on the idea of eating as a communal activity, Millennial entrepreneurs Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski have opened a grocery store in Germany which offers high-quality food as well as sustainability. At Original Unpackaged, the store’s aptly given title, no packaging is used. Customers either bring their own grocery bags or borrow containers from the store.
The timing for this eco-friendly enterprise could not be better. Second only to North America, the individual in Western Europe consumes nearly 400 lbs of paper annually. Furthermore, the paper producing industry utilizes over 12 percent of the energy within the entire industrial sector. Little by little, Original Unpacked's impact on waste reduction will help the environment, as well as bring individuals together through the power of a common meal.
The Educational Challenge
According to a PEW Research Center Report, American students are “lagging internationally,” and while math and science proficiency is growing, it certainly isn’t growing fast enough. Another data set from OECD reveals that out of 39 countries, the US ranks 26th when it comes to educational proficiency. Ironically the US, third only to Luxembourg and Norway, spends the most amount of money on education.
Charter schools provide one solution to this educational crisis, helping to speed American students toward greater math, science, and reading proficiency. The YES Prep schools of Houston, TX, are among the charter schools offering low income students an alternative to the city’s standard public schools. YES Prep school teachers have an average of 2.5 years teaching experience and — you guessed it — these teachers are primarily millennials. Utilizing the power of academic community, YES Prep teachers are slowly but surely paving the way to an educationally stronger America.
The Cultural Challenge
Several years ago, I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Any pilgrim on the Camino will tell you: the journey is riddled with physical, psychological, and spiritual hurtles — all of which must be overcome in order to reach Santiago, the Camino’s endpoint. Within the community of pilgrims journeying toward Santiago, a culture arises — a culture of diversity and generosity. The culture proves diverse in that pilgrims, the majority of whom are millennials, come from all over the world to hike the Camino. Pilgrims bring their languages, tastes in food, and stories with them. Pilgrims generously share these cultural elements with one another. As a result, Pilgrims leave Santiago, immersed not only in Spanish culture, but in cultures from around the world.
The Camino de Santiago is a microcosm for the millennial generation's world. The global community into which millennials have been born is incredibly small, knit together through the power of technology and social media. This new global community poses a significant challenge; it brings very different cultures together, sometimes uncomfortably so. Cultures are forced to rub elbows and look one another in the eye. They're are forced to face their differences, to evaluate their own success and effectiveness. Yet the challenge of a smaller world is also a gift and opportunity, allowing global citizens to learn from aspects of different cultures.
Effecting change on the global level can only work when individual cultures set aside their differences and work toward the common good. Yet before individual cultures work toward the good the whole, individual persons must start effecting change. How are you, as a millennial solutionist, working toward the common good through the global human community?