• Uneven solidarity: the school strikes for climate in global and intergenerational perspective

      Walker, Catherine; orcid: 0000-0003-3390-9272; email: catherine.walker-2@manchester.ac.uk (BioMed Central, 2020-05-29)
      Abstract: Background: The school strikes for climate (henceforth, the school strikes) initiated by Greta Thunberg have brought young people’s environmental concerns to the global stage. However, there is a danger of considering youth environmental concerns only through the actions of highly mobilised young people who are heavily concentrated in the urban Global North. This article revisits qualitative data collected before the school strikes to consider how 11–14-year-olds in India and England interpreted and responded to environmental hazards and degradation in their everyday lives, and connected their situated experiences to narratives of global environmental crisis. The young people occupied a range of socio-economic positions and were experiencing different degrees of vulnerability to environmental hazards. Results: All of the research participants were concerned about the future of the planet and their immediate environments. However, for the most environmentally vulnerable participants, future- and globally-oriented environmental concerns were overpowered by more immediate concerns. Although the young people were engaged in responses to environmental concerns, they did not see themselves as acting alone but rather with others around them, often adults. Some young people expressed doubt about the extent to which they as generationally-positioned individuals could make a difference to the problems discussed. These findings in many ways anticipate the school strikes, wherein young people are taking action to call upon adults to respond to environmental problems that young people recognise are beyond their individual capacities to resolve. Conclusion: The environmental activism of a significant minority of young people is to be applauded, however, the interest in youth activism prompted by the school strikes runs the risk of flattening global inequalities in young people’s exposure to environmental hazards, access to education and global knowledge networks. There is a need to look beyond such high-profile activities to understand how young people around the world are interpreting and responding to environmental concerns as generationally-positioned individuals operating within broader regimes of power.