Our disenchanted hope : an exploratory outlook on youth, climate change adaptation and transformation

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Threats and challenges posed by climate change require societal adaptation in order to withhold the functioning of fundamental human and natural systems. Efforts to adapt to climate change have mainly focused on institutional measures and overlooked the capacity of citizens in general and young citizens in particular. However, recent literature considers youth to possess a unique role as agents of change to facilitate adaptation and risk reduction. Following this, the purpose of this study is to explore the role of youth for climate adaptation. The youth of today are the leaders of the future and hence, examining young people’s understanding about their surrounding environment can give valuable indications of our development trajectory. In this endeavour, I have conducted a case-study with five focus group interviews on an upper secondary school in Malmö, Sweden. Through a conceptualisation of climate change adaptation, my analysis suggest that the youth show tendencies of transformative adaptation but that their full potential is restrained by feelings of hopelessness. This hopeless feeling is based on a perception that one’s own efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change would be useless considering the perceived inaction of other powerful societal actors. Theory suggests that unresponsive political systems can make young people feel disenchanted if their needs and values are not sufficiently recognised. Here, I argue that empowering young people to believe that they possess agency of change could be crucial for successful adaptation. How and where such empowerment could take place, for enhanced adaptation towards a societal transformation and to reach sustainable development, is a concern for future research however.

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