Climate justice and youth

A social justice and global education digital project.

Introduction

A line of sandbags with letters painted on the front to read CLIMATE EMERGENCY. Photo taken at the Change the Debate Rally in front of CBC Ottawa, July 17, 2019. (Photo by A.J. Percy)

Climate justice is the focus on taking large scale action to deal with the climate crisis in a way that does not exclude the most marginalized members of our societies, as climate justice focuses on the fact that climate change is not only an environmental crisis, but a human rights crisis (United Nations, 2019) Communities in the Global South are feeling the largest impact in regards to climate change, though these communities are not responsible for the current state of the planet. As such, those fighting for climate justice recognize and draw attention to how issues of social justice are exacerbated by neoliberal solutions to climate change. Solutions that rely on corporations and neoliberal governments taking action do not take into account the most vulnerable, and the goal of fighting for climate justice instead of climate action alone is to protect those communities that will feel the greatest impact from climate change. Urgent, community led action must be taken to ensure the protection and well being of Indigenous people, people in the Global South, and the environment (Global Justice Ecology Project, 2014). 

Banner reading “It’s our time to rise for Indigenous rights, a liveable climate, good work”. Banner was painted for use at the global climate strike, September 27, 2019 (Photo by A.J. Percy)

Transitioning to a sustainable economy that prioritizes people over profits, implementing the United Nations Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous People, and ensuring the right to a liveable climate are all key to achieving an equitable solution to the climate crisis, and current government policies do not do enough to fight climate change, and do not hold the worst polluters accountable for their harm to the planet. Carbon taxes and carbon offsets do little to encourage large corporations to reduce emissions, especially when Canada continues to give billions of dollars in subsidies to oil and gas companies (Environmental Defense, n.d.; Government of Canada, Office of the Auditor General, 2019). Climate activists argue that this money should instead be going towards the transition to a green economy, including supports for workers that will need training to move into a different sector and investments in green infrastructure. 

In recent years, many more youth have become involved in the movement for climate justice, demanding a place at the table, as they are the ones that will be living in the future that governments and corporations are destroying. Youth getting involved in climate justice has spurred climate strikes worldwide, and increased visibility around the issue.

A street mural depicting a fist holding a windmill, surrounded by the words “Our house is on fire”. Mural painted July 27, 2019. (Photo by A.J. Percy)

Youth have become increasingly involved in the movement for climate justice, in particular participating in climate strikes to protest a lack of action from the adults that have the capability to make a difference yet continue to ignore the severity of the crisis. In 2018, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish high school student and climate activist, began to strike from school to bring attention to the lack of climate action. Students around the world followed her lead, participating in Fridays for Future strikes, culminating in a week of global climate actions from September 20-27, 2019, with an estimated 7.6 million people participating worldwide (Global Climate Strike, 2019) to show governments the necessity of policies to combat climate change.

A portion of the crowd attending the climate strike in Ottawa, September 27, 2019. (Photo by A.J. Percy)

Indigenous people are at the front lines of the climate movement, as their communities and traditional ways of life are severely impacted by the current climate crisis, as spoken of by Autumn Peltier, a young Indigenous water protector. Indigenous youth have been leading the fight for climate justice across the world, pointing out that solutions to many of the problems caused by climate change can be found within traditional knowledge, and that a history of colonial violence and industrialization is what brought us to the point of ecological disaster.

Banners depicting the words “No pipelines on Indigenous land” and “water is life”. Photo taken August 24, 2019. (Photo by A.J. Percy)

In order to have strong climate policy in the future, youth must be engaged in climate action (Buttigieg, Pace, 2013), as they will be in control of this policy in the future, and current engagement means that they will go in to leadership positions knowing what has already been tried and what needs to be done. This also means that comprehensive education on issues of climate change and social justice are necessary in today’s classrooms, especially with the rising anxiety for the future of the planet among today’s youth.

References

Buttigieg, K., Pace, P., & Buttigieg, K. (2013). Positive Youth Action Towards Climate Change. Journal of Teacher Education and Sustainability, 15(1), 15–47. https://doi.org/10.2478/jtes-2013-0002

Environmental Defense. (n.d.). The Elephant in the Room: Canada’s Fossil Fuel Subsidies. Retrieved from https://environmentaldefence.ca/report/the-elephant-in-the-room-canadas-fossil-fuel-subsidies/

Global Climate Strike. (2019, September 28). 7.6 million people demand action after week of climate strikes. Retrieved from https://globalclimatestrike.net/7-million-people-demand-action-after-week-of-climate-strikes/

Global Justice Ecology Project. (2014, April 22). Climate Justice. Retrieved from https://globaljusticeecology.org/climate-justice/

Government of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada. (2019). Report 3-Tax Subsidies for Fossil Fuels-Department of Finance Canada. Retrieved from https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201904_03_e_43309.html#hd4a

Peltier, A. (2019, September 28). Water Protector Autumn Peltier Speaks at UN. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OusN4mWmDKQ

Thunberg, G. (2019, September 23). WATCH: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAJsdgTPJpU

United Nations. (2019, May 31). Climate Justice – United Nations Sustainable Development. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/