What is next for climate activism?

Charting the Future: The Evolution of Youth Climate Activism Amidst Global Challenges

Within this unprecedented time of global conflict, a race to save mother earth and a never ending pandemic, the usual ‘route’ to adulthood does not seem like an option to me. As I write this, it is coming up to the Fifth anniversary of global climate strikes and I am overwhelmed with the thought about how times have changed so much yet the trajectory of our future remains the same.

Just like many other young people who started climate activism in highschool, after years of mass protests; stealing headlines; yelling on the streets, striking from school and being locked away for online classes during the pandemic, somehow four years have passed. We are now of the age where we are supposedly ready to fly the nest. According to what I have seen in movies and read in books, It is now time for me to explore my journey into adulthood… but what does that mean for the young people who spent their teenage years fighting for a future without climate acceleration?

2024, where I have just turned 20. I have many questions and dreams but little understanding on what I should actually be doing next. So this leads me to the question: What is next for Climate Activism and young people?

Due to new enforcement laws on protests, limiting freedom of speech, young people at the moment are equipping social media as a tool for social impact. Through communication and celebrity collaboration. Focusing on outreach with digestible language and viral content talking about the climate emergency; widening our audiences, and maximizing engagement. Going ‘offline’ and returning to the historical roots of on the ground protests has not taken off as much again.

However, for the past few months, we have also seen the rise in direct action from groups such as ‘Just Stop Oil’ whose techniques lie within the theory of change utilized by the pressure group ‘Extinction Rebellion’. They have not centered mass mobilization in numbers but have created smarter disruption to attract attention on climate justice, like the infamous tomato soup on Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting.

There is no right or wrong within change-making, all efforts work in tandem to create a circle of change targeting all stakeholders in the fight for justice. Whilst the beliefs and aims of our global movement for climate action remain united and harmonized, the splintering of techniques showcase many things about the world today.

As my questions are mirrored by most of my peers and friends in this movement, there is no sustainable way to continue at the grass-roots level without professional recognition. This uncovers the harsh restrictions placed on teenagers growing up and hones in on the fundamentals of living in a capitalist world: with the priorities of capital acquisition, accumulation, and competition. This reinforces the current neglect of the function of charity and protest in society.

Recognising the systemic restrictions that are in place, I have started to notice the beginning of justice-oriented sentiments plastered throughout industries as Gen Z enters the work force. Something we will carry on is the accountability pushed on our employers, companies and industries to do better. This form of change follows different principles to protest, as the change is made within the confines of the system vs shouting outside the system’s walls.

My movement's trajectory, although actively against capitalism, is and will continue to be a product of the system of monopolies. Just like all of us… growing up, I am navigating the rigid realities of our world whilst continuing to hold disproportionate levels of civic responsibility to create change as intersectional crises worsen. The questions I leave with you are: Individually will you decide to appease and enter the system built to silence? Collectively will the youth climate movement move towards conventionalism? Will we decide? Or do we have a false sense of agency and in fact our futures have already been decided for us…just as it has for the earth?