Climate justice for the next generation
Climate justice for the next generation

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Climate justice for the next generation

3.1 Are young people particularly environmentally conscious?

The high profile of campaigners such as Greta Thunberg has positioned children and young people at the forefront of climate change activism. The extensive coverage they are being given in the media has led many to ask whether this generation of young are particularly environmentally conscious. You will consider this question in the next activity.

Activity 4

Timing: Allow 15 minutes

In the following audio you will hear an interview between Heather Montgomery of the Open University and Peter Kraftl who is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Birmingham. Peter has worked extensively on children and the environment. In this interview he discusses the question of whether young people are particularly environmentally conscious and how this might differ cross-culturally.

Figure 8 Professor Peter Kraftl, Birmingham University

Listen to the interview, then, once you have finished, answer the questions below.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: audio_1_children_and_the_environment.mp3
Skip transcript

Transcript

HEATHER MONTGOMERY
Hello, I'm here today with Peter Kraftl from the University of Birmingham. We're going to be talking about children and environments.
I find all this so interesting because, of course, we're in 2019 now. We've had all the school strikes this year on school children working, walking out of school on Friday. We've got this very strong sense that children are, in many ways, children and young people, are more environmentally conscious than adults. But do you think that young people are particularly environmentally conscious?
PETER KRAFTL
Yes, I do and I say that with just a little bit of hesitation because I think that's quite a complex question. I think they certainly are environmentally conscious in terms of the big issues. I wouldn't necessarily say that there are any more environmentally conscious than, perhaps, the previous generation of young people who are now in their 20s, 30s, and perhaps 40s, simply because debates about the environment had been raging since the 1980s when we really first started talking about environmental change and global warming and collecting evidence for it. I don't know whether it's partly the the rise of social media, but also just the sheer high profile of these debates which really means that they are now on the agenda, perhaps, more so than ever before and we're talking about young people's activism. But again, of course, young people have been active and engaged in climate related activism and other forms of protest and awareness raising for some years.
I think the other thing that I would like to point to, and this relates to some work that I've done outside the UK in Brazil, is that the ways in which children, young people, as part of their societies and their local communities, relate to the environment does vary with place. So the climate strikes are one expression of children's environmental consciousness, but the work that we've done in Brazil where we've looked at children's understandings of food, water, and energy as different resources, has shown us that children there have a really rich and detailed understanding of the environment, but they learn about the environment in different ways and perhaps they express that environmental knowledge in different ways. And in particular there, we found that they express it in terms of questions of social justice and class related inequalities and not necessarily always in terms of the generational debates that have characterised the climate strikes.
HEATHER MONTGOMERY
Thank you. I think that's a very, very important point to make that it's often, it's not children in the West who are necessarily suffering the worst impacts of climate change at the moment. It is children elsewhere and who have a very different relationship with the environment. And I think sometimes we do concentrate a bit too much on the Western activists, as opposed to the young people in other places. And I think that's very important to keep in mind. So thank you for that.
PETER KRAFTL
That's right. And I would also say that we need to think about who is involved in the climate strikes and whether they represent all young people from all segments of society. And they are fairly broad, but there have been questions raised about whether, for instance, some of the main protagonists of the climate strikes are mainly from white, more privileged backgrounds, and whether that's always the case in all of the protests. So there are ongoing questions not only about different places, but about the diversity of who is actually represented in those forms of climate action.
HEATHER MONTGOMERY
Yes, indeed. Lots of food for thought there. Thank you very much for talking to us today, Peter.
PETER KRAFTL
Thank you.
End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  • 1. Today’s young people are the first generation to realise the catastrophic effects of environmental damage.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

  • 2. Environmental issues have been a social concern for several decades.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • 3. Young people’s activism around climate change is more visible than before.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • 4. Children in Brazil are more interested in debates around generational inequalities than their Western counterparts.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

  • 5. Children in Brazil have a really rich and detailed understanding of the environment, but they learn about the environment in different ways and express that environmental knowledge in terms of questions of social justice and class related inequalities.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • 6. Children in the West suffer from the impacts of climate change much more than those elsewhere.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

  • 7. Many young climate activists tend to be white and privileged and some have expressed concerns that this might obscure the concerns and actions of poorer children outside the West

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

While Peter Kraftl discusses the prominence of this generation in contemporary debates, he is cautious about claiming this as an entirely new phenomenon and argues that young people have always been activists and campaigned alongside other, older people. However, he does see today’s protestors as particularly visible and acknowledges that they have been at the forefront of many recent climate protests, highlighting the inter-generational aspects of the climate change debate.

The following section will further draw on Peter’s research interests, which focus more broadly on children’s relationship with the environment

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