Youth not taken seriously in climate change action but are also being trivialised: expert

Young people involved in climate change protests are not achieving progress on their own, but they are also not being taken seriously either, a political expert has claimed.

People around the world stopped work and school around Australia and the world to strike for climate action last Friday, but despite calling for more progress, there are concerns that older generations are trivialising their efforts.

It also followed a speech at the United Nations by 16-year-old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg on Monday, who took world leaders to task for “stealing my dreams and my childhood” by failing to tackle climate change.

She had been referred as an indoctrinated child protester, criticised for being a “leftie” while also wrongly been called “mentally ill” by Fox News guest Michael Knowles in reference to her having Aspergers syndrome.

Murdoch University Senior Lecturer in Politics and Policy Ian Cook said there has been pessimism in young people, who believe that they wanted action on climate change but have not seen any.

“Some young people just feel a bit frustrated and paralysed,” Dr Cook said.

“Part of it is sort of angry resignation that there might be a lot of young people out there frustrated and angry and who don’t have a solution, they just have a lot of frustration and anger that they’re going to express.”

He also believed that while some had knowledge of the issues, others did not fully understand what they were protesting.

“There are other young people that really don’t know what’s going on and asking what’s happening around them and for them the climate thing might be a bit of fun,” Dr Cook said.

“I think there’s right of response and frustration and anger and yelling, quiet resignation and a sort of participation but a not fully understanding participation.”

He added that the protests were not going achieve progress on their own.

“Protests are largely symbolic, relatively ineffective, sort of big questions of what happens next.” Dr Cook said.

“There might be a lot of young people out there frustrated and angry and who don’t have a solution, they just have a lot of frustration and anger.”

However, he believed that young people were being trivialised in their action.

“I think that we get partly this old person response of ‘Oh yes, there’s a young person doing something, isn’t that great. Oh there’s things you don’t like, isn’t that fantastic, aren’t we great, we listen to those young people, now young people go away,’” Dr Cook said.

“I’m expecting that they’ll be trivialised, they’ll be a bit of disrespect.”

Dr Cook acknowledged that there were environmental issues that needed focus including species depletion and extinction, stating that “research and evidence is quite clear.”

He said radical economic transformation was “probably the only thing” to deal with environmental issues.

“Is it being redesigned, is it being reengineered around dealing with the climate,” he said.

“It’s very hard to see anything other than profound economic transformation.”

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