Back in September, a scientific paper published about young people’s feelings about climate change received a lot of attention. A UK university surveyed ten thousand young people between 16 and 25 in ten countries, and the results indicate that young adults are incredibly worried. More than half of those surveyed said that climate change makes them feel “afraid, sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and/or guilty.” More than half felt that humanity is doomed. More studies have come out since the landmark study in September, all with similar results.
This prevalent anxiety over the future of our planet is even being addressed in an upcoming book, titled Climate Change and Youth. The book will be geared toward how to talk to young people about climate change while prioritizing their mental health, offering techniques and strategies to address environmental stresses.
Another paper recently assessed the Australian state of Victoria for its engagement with youth over climate change decision-making. Despite Victoria’s strong youth and climate policies, they do not communicate or have specific youth-climate policies. Interviews with folks from youth advocacy organizations, academia, and state government reveal dissatisfaction with current engagement. Suggestions for improving youth engagement include extending seats on boards to youth, establishing a formal way for young people to submit ideas or concerns, and more professional development for youth to make a difference.
Africa is home to the world’s youngest population, and their voices are often unheard in climate change discussions. Africa has some of the poorest regions in the world, and the poorest people are usually the most vulnerable to climate change. Climate change awareness in Uganda is low, and survey respondents attributed noticeable environmental changes to deforestation and pollution before climate change. Of the respondents, 76% have had their livelihoods disrupted by environmental changes in the last year. Young people all over the world are interested in becoming more engaged with the policies of climate change, but they lack the appropriate support system to make effective change.
Young people that are involved in environmental causes tend to trend female, with high educational attainment. This youth environmental activism has not been met with enthusiasm and has become a hot topic of controversy in some political circles. Today's environmental activism embodies the values of post-materialism, emphasizing self-expression and quality of life over economic and physical security, and the idea that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter their affiliations.
Sources: Climate Change and Youth, NPR, Nature, Living in the Climate Crisis: Young People in Uganda, The Lancet, Journal of Youth Studies, Australian Journal of Environmental Education, The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health