DATING used to be so much easier. The checklist was straightforward: clean breath, a sense of humour and a kind personality. And no Millwall supporters.
A Millwall supporter always raised the prospect of more Millwall supporters at home and no one wants to encourage further breeding (it’s a handy rule of thumb for Trumpers, Brexiteers and climate deniers, too. We can’t do much about those already in existence. But there’s really no need to encourage them.)
Indeed, there’s a sense of melancholic martyrdom amongst all of them. They could all borrow the Millwall supporters’ song. To paraphrase the lyrics, they are Trumpers-Brexiteers-climate deniers. No one likes them. They don’t care and so on. And no one wants to particularly date climate deniers either, it seems.
Recent stories have highlighted the trend of “Thunberging”, which sounds like the climax of a Marvel movie, but is in fact related to something genuinely horrifying – the end of the world – or an unwillingness to date anyone who refuses to acknowledge the scientific probability of the end of our species at least. Thunberging is what happens when two daters connect over their passion for environmental causes.
The dating website OKCupid came up with the trend, after noticing a 240 per cent increase in mentions of climate change and other environmental issues on dating profiles in recent years. In 2019 alone, there was an 800 per cent increase in mentions of Greta Thunberg specifically.
The rise was largely driven by Millennials and Generation Z, which only adds to my middle-aged guilt. I asked my teenage daughter if she was familiar with the concept of Thunberging. She wasn’t, thankfully. It’s an online dating term. I then asked if she’d date a climate denier. She wouldn’t, thankfully. It’s bad enough that she’s still flirting between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City as possible life partners, let alone a flat-earther.
But the pro-environment shift among dating app users is as humbling as it is timely. Bumble allows its members to display their environmental causes, which is wonderful. OKCupid provides questionnaires that include questions on environmental causes, which is terrific. And I’d never previously heard of Bumble and OKCupid, which is embarrassing.
Exasperated landlord looking at steaming mess
But my daughter’s generation really is an exasperated landlord looking down at a steaming mess left on the lawn by an indifferent mutt, who’s currently scratching his testicles and wondering what all the fuss is about. The crap will get cleaned up, right?
Who knows? Gen Z can’t even date in peace, without first conducting an existential screening process to separate the tree huggers from the fire starters. In the 1990s, we wanted to know if first dates preferred Oasis or Blur, not renewable energy or fracking. But my daughter’s generation finds itself locked into a psychological filtering system, asking questions of each other that we wilfully avoided.
In November 2020, a Guardian report highlighted a survey of 600 people aged 27 to 45 who factored climate concerns into their reproductive choices and found 96 per cent were very or extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world. In my 20s, I was only really concerned with the physical process that made babies, not the impact of sending them into a grim reality.
And younger, informed people are going even further, ruling out the risk at the dating stage and swiping away from anyone with a misinformed view on the state of the planet. At least they have the advantage of dating apps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Imagine doing this in person and listening to a potential suitor insist that climate change is an online hoax created by Bill Gates, the Pope and the Chinese Government in order to make US manufacturing less competitive (that last part came from an actual Trump tweet.)
Looking for empathetic partners amid existential crisis
Thanks to societal greed, ignorance and selfishness, corporate malfeasance, dodgy lobbying or political inertia – take your pick, but Gen Z hasn’t got time to play an increasingly redundant blame game – younger people are already making lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce carbon footprints. Now they’re thinking about who they sleep with to save the planet.
A 2022 feature in the Guardian interviewed couples who came together - or split up - over environmental issues, with some refusing to date climate change deniers, just to further complicate matters. My list of dating demands for my daughter was already long. No misogynists, racists, sexists or homophobes, which may seem obvious now, but ruled out half the people I grew up with.
And now climate change deniers can be added to that toxic mix, too.
The planet has just recorded its hottest global temperature, one side of the United States appears to be baking, the other is flooding and countries across Asia and Europe continue to wilt in extreme heat. The last thing my daughter needs is a boyfriend who believes that climate change is a United Nations plot to control the world through evil cycling paths and sinister tree-planting projects.
Her generation is looking for empathetic, like-minded partners to face an existential crisis not of their making and the uplifting evidence from dating apps suggests that they’re finding each other. Unlike a climate hoax, Thunberging is real and hopeful. Personally, I’d love my daughter to indulge in a little Thunberging when the time is right, find a fellow Thunberger and eventually produce a Thunberger or two of their own (but not too many, obviously.)
Others are going to follow. In 2020, a survey showed that more than half of child and adolescent psychiatrists in England were seeing patients distressed about the state of the environment. Denial is an option only available to the truly ignorant and selfish at this point. They deserve to be swiped aside on dating apps.
A match made in heaven is going to be difficult if a date has no time for hell on earth.
Neil Humphreys is an award-winning football writer and a best-selling author, who has covered the English Premier League since 2000 and has written 28 books.