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There's no doubt that young people today are driving action on climate change. The #FridaysforFuture school strikes are arguably the most dedicated and sustained direct action in a generation. School pupils have kicked off an international movement committed to addressing the injustices, mass extinctions and environmental damage caused by climate change—while also building global networks, speaking out in public and holding the adults around them to account.
As more adults and institutions join the protests, it seems the agency of these young people is finally being recognized. But conversations about climate change still appeal to authorities for answers—whether calling for politicians to act, or for people to listen to scientists.
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Of course, listening to experts and holding politicians to account is an important part of what climate activists need to achieve. But it's not the only part. As the schools strikes continue to gain momentum, it's time to think about how young people can be meaningfully involved in shaping the future of our planet.
Unfortunately, there are still significant barriers preventing children from making their voices heard in democratic societies—not least the way they are represented in the media. As academics interested in children in politics and culture, we're exploring these issues as part of a project called Europe and the Child—Crisis, Activism, Culture. So far, we've found that cultural images of children involved in activism reveal adult desires and anxieties, rather than providing real empowerment.
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Swedish activist Greta Thunberg captured the world's attention when she was invited to address world leaders at the UN conference on climate change in December 2018, at just 15 years of age. Since then, her school strikes have become a global phenomenon. Through international media coverage and meetings with high-profile political figures, Thunberg has brought the climate emergency into view, right at the heart of political...
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