Youth Strike for Climate: Emerging research and implications for education

Year: 2021

Author: Verlie, Blanche

Type of paper: Symposium

Across the last few years millions of young people have been striking from their sites of education to protest climate inaction. Across these diverse places and platforms children and young people are crying out for the world to ‘change the system, not the climate,’ and have thus organised around the premise of ‘climate justice.’ Navigating regulations around the occupation of public space, negotiating with police, organising a web presence, and developing coherent demands demonstrates that young people today are more than capable of seeking out and understanding climate science, that they can make sense of its implications through sophisticated socio-economic analyses, that they fearlessly engage politically with varied injustices, and that they are adept at organising themselves to take critical and reflective collective climate action. It is clear that young people are learning a dynamic suite of skills and applied knowledge through striking from school. In addition, they have been educating others, from their peers, to their parents, teachers, communities and politicians. The school climate strikes pose an existential challenge to schools and the education system. The very notion that children feel they need to strike from school regarding climate inaction is a deep challenge to the presumptions that education, and schooling in particular, have children’s best interests at heart and are helping create a future in which today’s young people are able to flourish.Have we been selling children short by focusing on their scientific literacy and over-emphasising the value of ‘little things’ they can do to help them feel hopeful in the short term? Given we are rapidly racing towards a barely-habitable planet, are we guilty of de-politicising climate change and dis-empowering young people in what will be the fight for their lives? How should and can education respond to the calls of youth climate strikers?This presentation will explore the emerging research on the youth strikes for climate, including that collated in the special issue of the Australian Journal of Environmental Education that Alicia and Blanche are guest editing, and its implications for education.