Writer Jori Hamilton shares the importance of encouraging student activism on environmental and social issues.
Today’s youths have access to more information and connectivity than any generations before them. That’s why they’re among the most politically active students to date. Their access to information has led students around the world to discover the problems facing the planet and embrace mindful consumerism. It has also led them to organize with their peers to do something about it.
One of the largest student protests around the world today is the ongoing protest for climate change. Scientists have warned that without a dramatic change to environmental policies, society will face devastating worldwide warming with the next 12 years (source). Fearing for their future, students have begun to protest classes, imploring climate change action from their legislators and demanding that their future be protected.
Although these protests have drawn reproach from school and government leaders, environmentalists and teachers have applauded these students for doing what is in their power to stand up for this important cause. While student demands vary from country to country, they are largely supporting the timely implementation of clear policy frameworks like zero-carbon emission, the Green New Deal, and even lowering the voting age to have their voices be heard.
Today’s Student Activism Impact
Student activism is a powerful statement, drawing attention to the issues as the youth of nations around the world demand action on issues that they feel can no longer be ignored (source). As a large community of students, their protests are seen and heard by parents, school and government officials, and normal citizens who are aware of what is happening in their communities and around the world.
Throughout history, protesting has been an effective way to gather attention for specific issues, as grassroots operations demonstrate that the public will no longer stand for the status quo.
The student protests on climate change began August of 2018, as one climate change activist, Greta Thunberg, started protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament, accusing lawmakers of ignoring their commitment to fight climate change that was agreed upon as part of the Paris Climate Accord. Using social media to stream her cause, she soon went viral, inspiring thousands of students to protest classes to demand worldwide changes to climate change policy.
In March strikes took place in more than 100 cities, and although it’s difficult to determine the exact numbers of students protesting, tens of thousands of students are expected to take action.
The potential impact of student activism should not be underestimated. Today’s youth are more aware of social causes than ever before, and they have not yet been conditioned to accept injustice as the norm.
An outcome of understanding social justice in their youth has been students’ ability to find their voices and to feel capable of accomplishing change (source). By encouraging children to think critically about social issues in school, learners are able to discover an understanding of moral concepts and gain the confidence to speak up about them.
Encouraging Student Activism
Millennials have been at the forefront of impacting business through the demand they create with their purchases. As current students become of age, they will likely follow suit, prioritizing purpose with the direct connections they make in their daily lives. Today’s youth and young adults support corporate social responsibility (CSR) in regards to sustainability and diversity. Through their support of businesses that take CSR seriously — and the rejection of businesses that do not — younger generations are creating a demand for businesses to support these ideas.
Although students are learning about sustainability, scarcity, social justice, and the power of protests in school, parents who are socially and environmentally conscious can support this education by applying these concepts at home. Parent can encourage student activism by teaching their children about the impact of each purchase they make. Further, they can review how we can live sustainably each day by supporting local produce, avoiding single-use plastics, creating compost piles, and volunteering. Doing these things as a family can ingrain the importance of these actions and get children in the habit of supporting positive actions.
Students who participate in activism will be more capable of changing the world with their actions in the future. By learning to find their voice and the importance of standing up for social and environmental justice, students can brainstorm with their peers about the most effective ways to enact change. As a community that is keenly aware of current trends and new concepts, students can help make the planet a better place.
The youth of today is sending a profound message about how they feel about the inaction of government leaders regarding climate change and their future; they won’t stand for political idleness on the topic of global warming. They are protesting by the thousands with no intention of slowing down or stopping until their demands are met. Oftentimes, this is the behavior needed to make people listen.
By standing up for what they believe in, students may be the backbone to the push for the widespread reform that is needed to save the world from the effects of climate change.