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Can youth activism instigate change?

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

The future of tomorrow is working hard to preserve the planet.

Active Youth by Aveera Juss

One of the most urgent concerns facing the globe today is global warming and its impact on climate. There are 399.02 crores people aged 15 to 30 years old in the world today, accounting for 52% of the worldwide population. The crisis that we are all facing is an opportunity to include young people in the conversation. Individual, national, and international decisions will have long-term consequences that will affect the lives of members of the younger generations, who will inherit the world in worse shape than that which their parents inherited.

Young people may be a driving force for development and peace and security if they are given the appropriate skills and chances to fulfil their full potential. Youth can recognise and challenge current power structures and change barriers and highlight inconsistencies and biases. Young people can act and mobilise others as well. Globally, youth activism is on the rise, aided by increased connection and access to social media. Few individuals outside of the international development sector are aware that world leaders have reached an unprecedented, far-reaching agreement to improve people's lives and the environment by 2030. Young people may be partners in expressing the development agenda to their peers and communities on a local, national, and regional level.

Potential of Youth Activists

When young people are educated about their rights and given leadership skills, they can make a difference in their communities and countries. Young people also often have direct knowledge of and insights into topics that are not available to adults. Youth activists might accelerate change in global environmental politics because they embody different demographic characteristics compared to traditional civil society organizations.

Another distinguishing trait of the youth movement is that young women are dominant in it. More than 66% of the student-led Fridays For Future protests have been female and young women. Because the inclusion of gender concerns and a better gender balance within decision-making increases our ability to solve environmental challenges, this is a vital sign of the youth movement's ability to catalyse change. Young activists also criticise the prevailing business-as-usual mentality, which, in their opinion, promotes the already wealthy. Increased engagement, transparency, and responsibility are among their demands. They demand a redefinition of democratic rules to get a greater say in decision-making.

Climate Change Awareness Among Youth

The general population, as well as youngsters, must have a basic awareness of the causes and effects of climate change to participate in informed ways. Students have a variety of misconceptions and gaps in their understanding of global warming and climate change, including difficulty distinguishing between climate and weather, failing to see the impact of climate change as anything other than rising temperatures, and conflating ozone layer depletion with global warming. Resolving common student misconceptions about climate change and emphasising how students may take action to reduce their own influence on the issue can help students develop the ability to apply scientific knowledge to take action at the individual or community level. Education for sustainable development and action competence provide a framework for viewing the role of climate change education in developing the awareness, motivation, and skills necessary for youth participation in climate change to overcome these challenges.

Youth Involvement in Climate Change Response

In response to climate change, youth participation can help redirect development routes toward sustainability. A limited perspective on climate change that is too focused on the scientific and technical aspects of the problem can overlook the economic and social forces at work. In many developing nations, a youth-led participatory approach to environmental governance is particularly critical. Preparing young people to adapt to climate change is a long-term commitment that necessitates a combination of education and information to lay the groundwork for effective participation. Young people will be empowered to take climate change-responsive action as youths and to defend future societies as adults if their participation ability is increased. As today's youth mature into adults and become tomorrow's leaders, the outcome will be a societal shift in favour of alternate growth paths, rather than a concentration on techno-scientific answers to climate change and sustainable development.

Youth-led Climate Movement in India

The fact that the present youth-led climate movement in India is more global than local is perhaps its most distinctive trait. Greta Thunberg's international fame inspired schoolchildren, college students, and young adults to learn about climate change, educate themselves, and express their opinions. Their efforts to stop projects include using social media to raise awareness and acquire widespread public support, petitioning and mailing letters to government officials, and mobilising protests on the ground where required.

At the local level, youth climate groups have had a number of minor, incremental breakthroughs. For instance, In late 2020, a group of volunteers in Jammu, many of whom were youngsters, spent weeks cleaning up the River Tawi, a tributary of the Chenab. In November 2020, FFF campaigners in Shillong staged strikes, human chains, and online campaigns to prevent the development of a mall on land set aside for a public park. Save Mollem, a Goa-based movement was successful in bringing national attention to three infrastructure projects planned in the state's environmentally vulnerable Western Ghats.

Initiatives involving youth activism have the potential to enhance relationships between schools and the communities in which students and their families reside. Students gain good perspectives on the necessity and social relevance of science education with socially responsible curricula that are strongly committed to the health of communities and the environment as a result of these initiatives. National policies that facilitate the coordination of relevant governmental ministries, non-governmental organisations, and scientific and research institutes are needed to design and implement youth-focused programmes, as well as provide appropriate education and participation for effective climate change responses. Youth represent an underutilised resource in regional, national, and local contexts, with the potential to boost long-term climate change and sustainable development action.


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