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Next generation demands responsibility

Whichever wag said ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ certainly was not foreseeing today’s world. As young people pay the usual obeisance to motherhood on Mother’s Day, perhaps we baby boomers and generation Xers should be squirming uncomfortably and suggesting that maybe the young don’t have much to be thanking us for.

We have sort of made a mess of things, really, and are clearly not yet getting our act together to clean things up.

Many young people are saying our planet cannot wait for our clumsy, fumbling, trial-and-error – and more error – ways of figuring out how to live sustainable healthy values and practices.

Students at Yale University cannot wait any longer. More than 1,000 students are meeting on November 5 to launch a new movement demanding environmental and social justice from corporations.

The Student Alliance to Reform Corporations (STARC) is demanding universities adopt more ethical investment practices for their investment funds and that they influence corporations to reform their ways.

The STARC Internet media release (19 April 1999) states: “Your university invests its money in corporations like Lockheed Martin, which manufactures landmines, Walmart, which forces underage garment manufacturers to work up to 24 hour shifts, Chevron, which colludes with Nigeria’s oppressive military regime, Philip Morris, which hooks teenagers on cigarettes and Home Depot, which sells off rainforest wood and some of the last old growth in the US”.

Most universities, it says, blindly support corporate management, resisting greater representation of women, minorities and lesbians and gays in the workforce and at the executive level.

Some universities, it claims, are already switching parts of their endowments to socially and environmentally screened funds that consistently have higher returns than Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of large-capitalisation stocks.

The students say corporations are the nexus point in a system of power that promotes environmental des-truction, perpetrates human rights’ abuses abroad, perpetuates class, race and gender discrimination at home and systematically exploits workers worldwide.

STARC says, in the last century, corporations committing such shocking crimes against society had their charters revoked.

Now the economic strength of transnationals dwarfs the GNP of many medium sized countries.

Such huge power is negatively impacting on the daily lives of millions of people around the globe, seemingly without check.

Billed as a movement for the next millennium, STARC challenges students everywhere to put their mouth where their money is – to raise their voice for more ethical investment practices at their university.

So, pause for a nanosecond on Mother’s Day to reflect that if students at Yale, that ivy-league bastion breeding ground of greedy growth corporate executives, are concerned enough to organise a movement to change the corporate world, then there is indeed reason to thank our youth for what they offer us.

We should thank our lucky STARCs that they, at least, are being responsible for our future.

More information about the conference and STARC is available on www.onelist.com/subscribe/studentsforchange.



Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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