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Exploring youth activism on climate change: dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent

Karen O'Brien, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Norway
Elin Selboe, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Norway
Bronwyn M Hayward, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury, New Zealand


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The policies and decisions made today will influence climate and sustainability outcomes for the remainder of this century and beyond, and youth today have a large stake in this future. Many youth are expressing dissent toward economic, social, and environmental policies and practices that contribute to climate change in diverse ways, but clearly not all forms of climate activism have the same impact or repercussions. We have presented a typology for understanding youth dissent as expressed through climate activism. Recognizing the complex empirical reality of youth concerns about climate change, this typology has distinguished three types of activism as dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. By drawing attention to multiple ways for youth to express their political agency both within and outside of traditional political processes, we have highlighted and analyzed the diverse ways that youth are challenging power relationships and political interests to promote climate-resilient futures.

Key words

activism; climate change; dissent; politics; sustainability; youth

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087