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‘Uproot the system’ and ‘Live under socialism or live under water’ are typical slogans of many young people involved in environmental activism. However, a decade ago Fisher stated: “not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it” (2009: 2). Some young people appear to reject the validity of capitalism as an economic system that can solve the environmental crisis – instead, presenting a sense of hope that there is an alternative.
Reflections on what has enabled this anti-capitalist consciousness to emerge point to a holistic understanding of social justice and the impact of economic inequality. Young people involved in activism are seemingly situating themselves as part of a wider global community alongside members of the global south and indigenous communities who are affected as marginalised groups. Some argue that young people are moving away from class-based political organisations centred on a resistance to oppression, towards a politics of the individual, focused on cause-based and single-issue politics and driven by post-materialist values.
This presentation will explore the role of class in contributing to the shaping of young people’s understanding of politics and their political action (and non-action). It will discuss the relatively under-explored aspect of class in much scholarly work on environmental activism and youth political participation in recent decades and will discuss how young people involved in environmental activism appear to be re-igniting class as a key point of concern.
Dena Arya is a Doctoral Researcher in Politics at Nottingham Trent University. Her life experiences bring a unique mix of skills and understandings to her research area. Having grown up in the UK as a refugee and worked for over a decade in the youth and community sector, she has a distinct position from which to engage in understandings of power in marginalised spaces. Her research explores the role that economic inequality plays in how young people participate in environmental politics. More widely her research interests include eco-socialism and the politics of inequality.
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