Youth-led climate strikes: fresh opportunities and enduring challenges for youth research - commentary to Bowman
journal contributionposted on 30.09.2020, 08:25 by Bronwyn Wood
In this commentary I respond to Benjamin Bowman’s Fennia paper by extending upon his central thesis that argues that the prevailing methodological tools and framings used to research youth political participation perpetuate unhelpful and inadequate dichotomies about youth. Advancing upon this, I suggest that the youth climate strikes in 2019 highlight three prevalent discourses in youth research relating to climate change: (i) the tendency to view youth as isolated individuals, neglecting the role of adults and communities; (ii) the tendency to focus on individual behavioural change rather than recognise the need for systemic and societal responses to climate change, and (iii) the tendency to overlook structural characteristics of youth such as race, gender and social class. The resulting discourses of youth autonomy, individualism and homogeneity lead to a distorted picture of young activists and perpetuate harmful narratives which lead to stigma, despair and cynicism. The paper concludes by advocating for greater care in the research methodologies and critical frameworks we use to report on youth at public events, such as climate strikes, in order to allow for the complexity of the young political agent, the ambiguity of some of their actions and for opportunities that enable young people themselves to articulate their own participation.