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Author(s): Clive Hamilton
It’s a lot of shit to be dumped on you, when you’re just trying to find your way in the world’
In September 2019, some four million young people in hundreds of cities around the world joined the School Strike for Climate Action, probably the largest ever student protests. Although the protests attracted countless news stories, we know little about the experiences and struggles of the young people involved in this global movement. What moved them to become involved? What has their involvement meant for them? What are their fears for the future? And how do they cope with them?
Last year I began researching the phenomenon of youth climate activism for a book. The aim was to conduct 50-60 in-depth interviews with young activists in Australia, Europe and North America. The timing turned out to be poor. By August 2020, nations around the world were locked down and young climate activists went into a kind of hibernation. With twenty-two interviews completed, no more activists volunteered.
The book was abandoned, yet the material in the interview transcripts is so rich and so moving that the insights deserve to be known, hence this article. Of the twenty-two activists, twelve are from Australia, seven from Europe and three from the United States. Their ages, in the middle months of 2020, range from 13 to 22. Sixteen are girls or young women. The names of the interviewees and their home towns have been changed where needed, to ensure anonymity.
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