Students: Sustainability beats financial crisis

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15 december 2011 | What are the most important challenges Europe has to face? A study shows that for students sustainability and climate protection is the most pressing issue right now, even ahead of solving the financial crisis.

Debt crisis, financial crisis, euro crisis. The state of theEuropean economy and its institutions have dominated public debatesfor almost two years. But what do students believe to be the realchallenges we have to face in the future? A research conducted in 8European cities shows that environmental and sustainability issuesare still the greatest worry of Europe’s upcoming generation ofscientists, policymakers and innovators.

Sponsored by the City of Hamburg, Siemens and the Hamburg University of AppliedSciences, the study “Green Capital of Tomorrow – the nextgeneration’s perspective” collected data from 1.100 studentsbetween the age of 21 and 30 from Vienna (Austria), Zurich(Switzerland), Trondheim (Norway), Hamburg (Germany), Paris(France), Warsaw (Poland), Barcelona (Spain) and Brussels(Belgium).

Climate and sustainability, not finance

When asked which of the following challenges they found veryimportant, 71% of the students chose environmental and climateprotection and sustainability as the most pressing issue. Both”improvement of the education system” and overall “reduction ofunemployment” tied for place 2 with 66%. Despite the recentdevelopments, the financial crisis came in only 4th with65% calling it a very important challenge.

  1. Environmental and climate protection, sustainability (71%)
  2. Improvement of the education system (66%)
  3. Reduction of unemployment (66%)
  4. Managing the financial crisis (65%)
  5. Reduction of family poverty (57%)
  6. Reduction of crime (51%)
  7. Improvement of social justice (49%)
  8. Improvement of the health care system (48%)
  9. Improvement of integration of foreigners (45%)
  10. Switching off nuclear power plant (40%)

Students in Trondheim (82%), Barcelona (81%) and Hamburg (79%)were particularly concerned with environmental issues. Regardingthe economic issues, Spanish students appeared most worried aboutthe financial crisis (77%) and reducing unemployment (81%). Thisdoes not come as a surprise given that Spain currently features ayouth unemployment rate of around 48,9%.

Spanish, French and German students want improvements ofeducation system

Regarding, education students in Barcelona (84%), Paris (75%)and Hamburg (72%) seem to be unhappiest with the current system.Swiss study participants appeared less pessimistic in that respect(56%).

Another remarkable finding of the study was how students divergein their attitude towards nuclear energy. German Chancellor AngelaMerkel realized this year that her country would shut down allnuclear plants by 2020. This is backed by 58% of German studentsbelieving that abandoning nuclear energy is a pressing issue.Polish (60%) and French (51%) study participants think this isunimportant.

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