For young people, two defining events: COVID-19 and climate change

National Geographic discusses for young people, two defining events: COVID-19 and climate change. An unforeseen pairing of catastrophes will inform how Generation Z navigates the world as adults, and what sort of future they create.

JAMIE MARGOLIN EXPECTED to speak at the Earth Day rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Instead, with the April 22 gathering cancelled, she watched a digital celebration on her laptop in Seattle, where she has been sheltering at home since mid-March with family.

Her high school classes have moved online. She graduates in the Class of 2020, but the usual rites of passage—the prom and the graduation ceremony itself—are cancelled. Her 96-year-old grandfather had been hospitalized with COVID-19. A week later, he died. At his hug-free funeral, Margolin, her parents, and her uncle stood six feet apart in face masks and gloves.

Margolin, 18, belongs to Generation Z, the age group of children born after 1996. She has been a climate activist since she was 14 and despairs of the Earth remaining livable for the second half of her life. Now a highly contagious pandemic threatens to ravage the first.

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