What Lies Ahead For The Youth Climate Movement

Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests People attend a climate change protest in Montréal, on Sept. 26, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Students around the world returned to the streets in late September for a global day of climate action for the first time since these Fridays for Future protests had been interrupted in early 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fridays for Future — also known as the climate strike and Youth for Climate — began in 2018 when Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, frustrated by the government’s lack of climate action, staged a series of protests outside the Swedish parliament. Over time, others joined in and the protests became a regular phenomenon with some marches garnering hundreds of thousands of people.

But with physical distancing measures in place across much of the world, the protests stopped and temporarily lost momentum. Given this break, does Fridays for Future have a future? As a researcher of social movements, and a teacher and parent, I have a number of reasons to think the youth climate movement is resilient, and will bounce back after COVID-19.

Motivation, commitment, networks, technology

People get involved in social movements for a variety of reasons. But one common starting point is concern about a particular issue. This is also true of youth climate activists, but their concern registers at an entirely different magnitude.

Many youth have an existential dread of what the climate crisis means for their future. Some question whether they have a future at all. Their commitment to change is significantly greater than it might be for other social movements.

A woman holds up a sign during a climate change protest Many young climate activists say they feel hopeless and overwhelmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Sociologists also look for the extent to which participants in social movements are connected through social networks. Because youth climate activism is often embedded within school based clubs and organizations, frequent interpersonal interaction tends to reinforce such ties, and in turn, commitment to participate.

The recent Global Day of Climate Action on Sept. 25 did not draw the same crowds as the previous year. But youth did participate with many activities, such as discussion panels, which took place online.

Some groups focused on responding to the Canadian government’s speech from the throne. Others organized groups online to phone local Members of Parliament. In Vancouver, where I live, small groups of youth wearing protective gear and observing physical distancing protocols staged protests outside the the offices of elected politicians.

The tech savviness of youth climate activists is another factor that enhances the prospects of the future of the movement. Youth use social media to stay connected, and to recruit new people. They attract attention from traditional media or bypass traditional media altogether, communicating directly to the public, often through images and videos.

The cycle of protest

A further reason why youth activism is likely to persist is that it is connected to what social movement scholar Sidney Tarrow has called a “cycle of protest.”

Tarrow and other researchers have been interested in how social movement protests diffuse throughout societies. They argue that there are periods characterized by heightened mobilization, protest and communication that flow from one sector to another.

Some examples of cycles of protest include the 1960s movements in the U.S. such as the civil rights, student and anti-war movements; the protests in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s that preceded the fall of the Iron Curtain; and the Arab Spring that occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the early 2010s.

Placards cover a grassy field in front of government buildings in Berlin. Activists place thousands of protest placards in front of the German parliament during a Fridays for Future protest in Berlin, April 24, 2020. Youth groups moved climate demonstrations online Friday because of restrictions on public protests during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

In North America, as my American colleague Dana Fisher has documented in her book American Resistance: From the Women’s March to the Blue Wave, a cycle of protest has been occurring since shortly after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017, and this is not likely to end immediately after the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Recent climate strikes fed off this energy. It may also be one of the reasons why Black Lives Matter protests reached the scale they did after the killing of George Floyd. Some youth have been simultaneously involved in multiple social movements (dealing with the environment and also with racial injustices), and these synergies will likely continue to give fuel to future climate strikes.

Climate justice

While youth climate action seems destined to resume after COVID-19 subsides, it will probably take different forms in the future. It is difficult to anticipate the new tactics that youth activists will devise, but future youth climate action will likely link climate concerns to social justice, and take an intersectional approach.

Climate justice refers to the idea that there is a disjuncture between who has contributed to and benefited from producing the climate crisis by burning fossil fuels, and those who will be disproportionately negatively affected by it — and that that gap should be fixed. In the context of youth, this is an intergenerational inequity where older generations have contributed more to the problem, but youth will disproportionately face the consequences.

Because of this insight, youth are often more sensitive to other forms of climate injustice; they have been very active in connecting with Indigenous communities and groups, and Indigenous representatives have played key roles at past in-person climate events. Moving forward, justice issues are likely to become more central to climate protests.The Conversation

About The Author

David Tindall, Professor of Sociology, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

by Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann
1786634295How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse. Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Available On Amazon

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond
0316409138Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet. Available On Amazon

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

by Kathryn Harrison et al
0262514311Comparative case studies and analyses of the influence of domestic politics on countries' climate change policies and Kyoto ratification decisions. Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Available On Amazon

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

POLITICS

A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
image
Climate explained: how the IPCC reaches scientific consensus on climate change
by Rebecca Harris, Senior Lecturer in Climatology, Director, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania
When we say there’s a scientific consensus that human-produced greenhouse gases are causing climate change, what does…
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
by Joshua Axelrod
In a disappointing decision, Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled…
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
by Mitchell Bernard
At Biden’s urging, his G7 counterparts raised the bar on collective climate action, pledging to cut their carbon…
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
by Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Director of Oxford Net Zero, University of Oxford
The four-day G7 summit in Cornwall ended with little cause for celebration from anyone worried about climate change.…
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
by Steve Westlake, PhD Candidate, Environmental Leadership, Cardiff University
When UK prime minister Boris Johnson took a one-hour flight to Cornwall for the G7 summit, he was criticised for being…
Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on
by Paul Brown
With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate…
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
by Arthur Petersen, Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy, UCL
The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands and also hosts the International Criminal Court. NAPA /…

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
White sea ice in blue water with the sun setting reflected in the water
Earth’s frozen areas are shrinking 33K square miles a year
by Texas A&M University
The Earth’s cryosphere is shrinking by 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) per year.
A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
A brown weasel with a white belly leans on a rock and looks over its shoulder
Once common weasels are doing a vanishing act
by Laura Oleniacz - NC State
Three species of weasels, once common in North America, are likely in decline, including a species that’s considered…
Flood risk will rise as climate heat intensifies
by Tim Radford
A warmer world will be a wetter one. Ever more people will face a higher flood risk as rivers rise and city streets…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.