Child/Youth studies and the eco-climate crisis – sustainability in relation to politics, law(suits), economy, education, philosophy

Children/youth studies: There are different (academic) traditions of youth studies which can help us to think about solutions to get rid of the democratic (non-representation and non-participation) deficit: after having traditionally conceptualized “children/young people” foremost as a stadium within a developmental model of slowly becoming a grown-up citizen, nowaday research contextualizes young people (in an intergenerational and environmental political space) and treats them even as possible co-researchers with their own experiences and initiatives.

When we focus on the perspective of children and young people in a global context (following FridaysForFutures inspiration) – what perspectives, ideas, and actual and possible strategies of societal transformation become visible?

As a starting point, we can see a double democratic deficit or even abyss: the children themselves have barely anything to say in the political process; and their lives and (future) needs are not represented in the institutionalized democratic decision making processes (participation and representation deficit). And this is only made worse by the lack of a global perspective for these (national, grown-up) democratic processes. At the same time; their lifes are most impacted by the ecological and climate crisis with the prospect of living on an partly unhabitable planet; and their fear, sorrows and need of action now are colouring their lives as maybe nothing else.

Let us look at the different dimensions of the possible intergenerational fight to solve this core democratic problem:

A The double democratic deficit: children as citizens and activists

Young people as citizens and political subjects; climate justice activism as a global possibility to change the inaction of governments. How do the young people see themselves as citizens and activists? Which ways are there to give them the rights to influence the politics which has most impact on their lifes (beyond the UN childrens rights convention)?

B Children process against states – the legal dimension

In different countries, children are persuing lawsuits against the states. In USA; in Holland; in Norway; and 14 children (Greta Thunberg) against Germany, France, Brasil and Canada.

How does this fight look like? How is it conceptualized? Which arguments are important? How are the processes intergenerationally organized?

C Education for sustainability and the link to science; young people as co-researchers

An important theme for the young strikers themselves from the very beginning of the strikes is: the education is inadequate. This goes for the content (curriculum in all subjects) and the pedagogy; they have to change, must be transformed.

How should it look like: the education for sustainability itself; and all the other curricula? What would that mean for the universities? Which new content and which new didactics is needed to take the crisis serious?

Here is a youth initiative to change the curriculum:

D Children, economy, democracy – “system change, not climate change”

What could “climate and social justice” and a “system change” mean? With which economic theories are the young people confronted and which do they use themselves to analyze and understand the world and transformation?

Is there a genuine view of young people on the big economic questions (what is value; valuable; should be valued; how to organize and plan for a global and national ways of fulfilling everones needs within the planetary boundaries?)

The young people create their own climate action plans which combine economic thinking with social justice criteria:

E Health and sustainability

There is the problem of anxiety and panic because of the climate and ecological crisis, but also the question what well-being or “feeling well, alive, not-alienated” would mean. Mental health problems are widely spread and difficult to talk about and conceptualize. How to guarantee and create a social and political space which allows everyone to feel connected to oneself and others? How to give space to express the feelings and needs linked to the fundamental crises?

F “We need a new way of thinking” – children and philosophy, worldviews, fiction and narratives

Within the movement, the young people clearly express the need for a new way of thinking. The western traditional worldview (on nature, technique, children, democracy) is leading into global problems. Indigenous worldviews are discussed and a process is leading to questions about how to talk and think about what is valuable and important.