Young people as environmental citizens beyond individualistic consumers

This session is co-organized with The Annual Meeting of Finnish Geographers 2021 (Maantieteen päivät 2021).

Chairs:
Päivi Honkatukia, Tampere University, paivi.honkatukia(at)tuni.fi
Kirsi Pauliina Kallio, Tampere University, kirsipauliina.kallio(at)tuni.fi

Thursday 4.11. at 14.30-16.50 pm

As part of rising awareness of the climate crisis, youths in different parts of the globe seek insight and practical solutions to such broad-ranging challenges that will deeply affect the future of all life on earth. Yet young people’s opportunities to impact on decision making have not increased adequately; they still tend to be viewed as vulnerable groups to be protected and provided for by the adult society, instead of active citizens. Moreover, the dominating interpretation of environmental citizenship based on individualistic consumerism downplays the views that young people present in other roles than critical consumers. This session explores young people’s emerging interests in environmental politics and the related societal participation as environmental citizenship broadly understood, acknowledging formal, informal, and mundane civic activities. We set out to challenge the dominant understanding of environmental citizenship as individualistic and consumerist agency vis-à-vis global markets and emphasise the need to understand wicked environmental problems as intertwined with other broad phenomena in which young people’s voices remain scarcely heard. We welcome theoretically, methodologically, and empirically oriented contributions, in Finnish or English. The session is organized as a set of hybrid panels, at two scientific meetings (the annual meetings of Finnish geographers and youth studies).

Presentations

Abstracts

Young peoples’ environmental citizenship in the news and social media framings on the Fridays for Future Movement in Finland

Eerika Albrecht (University of Eastern Finland), Janette Huttunen (Åbo Akademi)

The Fridays for Future (FFF) movement is a major climate movement, which has attracted young participants, calling for systemic change and has demanded adults and decision-makers to act on climate change. In this paper, we explore framing young people’s environmental citizenship within Finnish news media and Twitter discussions about the FFF movement. We draw from Dobson’s (2003, 2007) concept of environmental citizenship, a non-territorial form of citizenship, which develops in the cultural and social spaces of environmentalism and which has been defined as the “ecological politics of everyday life”. Our results explore the many aspects of environmental citizenship that young people express in the FFF movement. We identified three frames within the media debate on the school strikes: the sustainable lifestyle frame, focusing on the individual and critical consumerism aspects of environmental citizenship, the active youth frame, focusing on active youth participation in politics, and the school attendance frame, concerned about the young people skipping school for the strike action. Despite the dominance of the discussion on school attendance, the FFF movement in Finland was framed through sustainable lifestyle choices, especially on Twitter. We revealed dominance of adult voices in the Finnish media and social media debate on young people’s action on climate change, which can support young people when they are developing skills to act as environmental citizens but might undermine the collective action and justice demands of young people. The movement is also shaping young people’s perceptions of active citizenship and young people’s political participation.

Keywords: Fridays for Future, youth participation, social movements, social media, environmental politics, environmental citizenship

Participation of Sámi youth in the Finnish climate act reform from the perspective of social justice

Henna Juusola & Jukka Viljanen (Tampere University)

In this ALL-YOUTH-research we focus on the Sámi youth’s participation in national climate act reform that started in 2019. During the reform process, broad consultations were organized by the ministry of environment to gain notions of the citizens and stakeholders. A particular focus was on the Sámi people and youth, particularly affected by climate change (see e.g. Näkkäläjärvi et al. 2020). Data of this analysis consists of statements and comments related to climate act reform and a joint Nordic declaration on climate change by Sámi youth. In the data analysis, we also take into account the discussions that we have had with Sámi youth during this research: in this research, close co-operation has taken place with the Youth Council of Finnish Sámi Parliament, which is officially a co-research body.

In the presentation, we describe the initiatives stated by Sámi youth and consider how these relate to the initiatives put forward by other youth actors nationally and internationally. As an analytical starting point, we follow Fraser’s (2008) notions of social justice: social justice requires recognition of social groups, opportunities for participation and a simultaneous review of the distribution of social resources. Analyze process is based on interpretive policy analysis, enabling the integration and interpretation of Finnish climate act reform into global, national and local policy processes (Häikiö & Leino 2014).

Reference:
Fraser, N. 2008. Scales of justice. Reimaging political space in a globalizing world. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Häikiö, L. & Leino, H. 2014. Tulkitsevan politiikka-analyysin lähtökohdat. In L. Häikiö & H. Leino (eds.), ”Tulkinnan mahti. Johdatus tulkitsevaan politiikka-analyysiin.” (9-32) Tampere university press.
Näkkäläjärvi, K.; Juntunen, S. & Jaakkola, J. (2020). SAAMI – Saamelaisten sopeutuminen ilmastonmuutokseen ­hankkeen tieteellinen loppuraportti. Valtioneuvoston selvitys­ ja tutkimustoiminnan julkaisusarja 2020:25"

Towards understanding practices of visual participation: Exploring the meaning of visual content on social media channels among young environmental activists in Finland

Jenni Kettunen (University of Helsinki)

Not many are unaware of the image of the Swedish young activist Greta Thunberg sitting alone in front of the Swedish Parliament – an image that has since August 2018 become a somewhat symbol for the international climate movement. Young people are a powerful force for change both online and offline (Reinikainen, Kari, & Luoma-aho, 2020). In September 2019, the climate strikes took place in estimated 185 countries. According to Boulianne, Lalancette & Ilkiw (2020), the global climate strike reflects a trend in international protest events, which are connected though social media and other digital tools.

One of the latest examples of this mobilisation is Extinction Rebellion (XR), an international movement established in the UK in 2018. XR describes itself as “an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse” (Extinction Rebellion, 2021). This mobilisation is closely linked to social media channels, which, in turn, make increasing use of visual practices (Miller et al. 2016). Because the public sphere of today’s youth is increasingly dominated by visual content, it becomes vital to investigate how it shapes the political action and imaginaries of the youth.

The presentation introduces my on-going doctoral research, which takes the idea of the connection between the online and offline spheres of public action and the increasing significance of the visual content in the lives of young people as a starting point to study visual participation. In this presentation, I discuss the topic from the viewpoints of young people who have engaged in activism in XR Finland, better known as Elokapina. With ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, I explore how the young citizens understand the meaning of visual content on social media channels as part of their activism.