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Youth and Climate Justice: Representations of Young People in Action for Sustainable Futures

10:30, Wednesday 10 May 2023 EDT (30 minutes)

From fossil fuel corporations sponsoring climate change education (UBC Blog, 2022) to youth-washing international gatherings (Patterson and Linley-Mota, 2021), young people are bombarded, and simultaneously abandoned, by struggles for climate justice. Yet, youth are those whose generations will experience the brunt of decisions - and inaction - today. As the IPCC’s 2022 Report has identified, and as Indigenous scholars and scholars of colour have long maintained (e.g., Whyte, 2018), the issues that fuel our current environmental crisis is also a social crisis and a direct result of broader, structural conditions that have become the de facto global order that propel notions of sustainable development (Sultana, 2022a & Sultana, 2022b). In settler colonial contexts such as Canada, colonialism, capitalism, and inequitable forms of violence mutually depend upon one another to perpetuate climate injustice (Indigenous Climate Action, 2020). Youth are increasingly aware of these entanglements, while seemingly discouraged from transformative action (Grosse & Mark, 2020). With these tensions in mind, we ask: how are youth represented in the literature that engages young people in environmental and climate justice? How have youth been engaged in climate justice for social and environmental transformation? We engage climate and environmental justice literature and youth-led initiatives to explore these questions. We thus demonstrate how youth are positioned within conventionally liberalized spaces that purport sustainable development towards climate justice; spaces, we argue, that espouse adaptive and mitigative measures that too often erase the privileges required for transformative change, while invisibilizing those on the front lines of climate action.

UBC Okanagan
UBC Okanagan
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