skip to content

Power of Adolescent Voice: Climate Change Youth Activism

September 26, 2019

Filed in: Contribution

Image for EE7ByquW4AEtMML.jpeg

Last Friday, millions of young people skipped school and marched through streets from New York City to Nairobi to protest what they see as inexcusable inaction on the part of world leaders to address climate change.

It is not at all surprising that youth are leading this movement. Adolescents are developmentally primed to take on such world-changing challenges. Throughout history, adolescents’ propensity to take risks, seek social status, and to want to have an impact upon their world has helped spur humankind toward exploration and innovation. Adolescents have been at the forefront of social change throughout history: from the Civil Rights movement to Vietnam War protests to gun reform advocacy.

Youth and protest

These protests are a sign of hope for the future—after all, theirs is the generation that will be tasked with either solving climate change or adapting to its aftermath if current leaders are too late with a solution.

Adolescents are clearly capable of understanding the science, and of caring deeply about the issue for themselves, their same-age peers around the world, and the generations that come after them. They can connect their passions to inspiring goals. These young people also have the social-networking savvy to ignite these passions in the hearts and minds of others, harnessing unprecedented numbers of peers and adults to join them in marching for change.

How youth and adults can work together

But although they are stepping up to raise the urgency of climate change, adolescents do not have the adult status, privileges, political power, or even the right to vote that could directly effect the changes required to address the climate crisis.

Even 16-year-old global climate super-star Greta Thunberg is using her influence to ask adult leaders to use theirs. “I don’t want you to listen to me,” she said, addressing
members of the U.S. Congress. “I want you to listen to the scientists. And then I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

The stakes for investing in these young people—and in their future prospects on our planet—have never been higher. Adolescents are tackling this issue using the powers that they have. It’s time for leaders to do the same.

back to top