It’s not easy staying green.

Younger Americans tend to be more environmentally conscious than their parents and grandparents. This has lead science educators such as Bill Nye to argue societal attitudes toward the topic will shift as older generations die off.

Disturbing new research suggests that may be a false hope. It reports Americans grow less supportive of spending money to protect the natural environment as they age, no matter the year of their birth.


“There is no inexorable march toward greater environmentalism as younger cohorts with greater environmental awareness replace older ones,” warn Erik Johnson, professor of sociology at Washington State University, and Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Their study, in the journal Environment and Behavior, suggests organizations urging Earth-friendly behaviors may be targeting the wrong demographic.

The researchers analyzed data from the General Social Survey, a large, nationally representative sample of American adults, from 1973 to 2016. They focused on responses to one question: whether we are spending (a) too much, (b) about the right amount of money, or (c) too little on “improving and protecting the environment.”

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