These past few years, we’ve seen the rise of teen activists all around the globe, with perhaps the most high-profile one being Greta Thunberg. It wasn’t as if there weren’t any teen activists before her. However, after her rise to fame suddenly the media was taking them seriously. In turn, as the media took them seriously, the amount of activists started to rise.
So we could ask the age-old question: Did the chicken or the egg come first? Whichever you think was first doesn’t matter though as they are making their voices heard.
The real question is do these teens know what they are actually talking about, or are they just pretending to have done something without any contribution?
Youth Representation in Government
There is almost no real representation of the youth’s opinions in most governments. Further more, most high-up government officials are very old. United States could be given as an example to this where the new president elect is 77 and the average age of the Senate is 62. Seniors (citizens over the age of 60) make up only 16% of the population yet they are 62% of the senate.
The reality is that the fastest growing portion of the population is not represented, is not listened to and is not understood. Most countries’ laws honor some type of social contract. Meaning, people give up some of their rights (like the right to revolt) to the government in exchange for security and the protection of their other right (which are also called the unalienable rights).
In this case, all governments who underrepresent the youth and take no climate action are violating both the social contract and the ideals of a republican and a democratic society. We, the young. people, shouldn’t be on the streets demanding climate action. Yet when you teach a first grader what the impacts of climate change are and tell that them no one is taking any action, of course he’s going to grow up resenting the system. The voices of children are invaluable. They have a true sense of what is right and what us wrong. We cannot keep saying “You don’t understand why we aren’t taking any action, it’s more complicated than you think.” to the youth because it really isn’t.
The fact is that these teenagers have the hope and the energy you don’t. And just because you don’t have the courage to do what is right, you shouldn’t be making excuses. The youth’s voices are so loud to you because you don’t share their idealism.
Sometimes, issues that seem complicated to adults can be very simple for the young people because they can see through the excuses.
The Climate Change is coming. It is very real. And doing something about it shouldn’t be a question of if. Because if you don’t, you’re condemning these young people to a horrible future. A horrible future you created with your lies and your excuses. So if the young people are demanding something, it because you’ve condemned them to a deathly fate.
Is Youth Activism a New Thing?
No, not at all. Universities have always been the political center of many cities. We could take the example of ODTU (Middle East Technical University) in Ankara, Turkey. ODTU has been the political center in the capital of Turkey for a very long time. In fact very recently, 22 students were detained for organizing a Pride March. 18 of them are still waiting for criminal charges.
Activism has always been an integral part of universities and of youth. It has helped drive progressive ideas into the political scene. Most of the progressive ideas of the past now seem natural to us.
And that’s how it’s always been: Youth driving the progressive change the world needs for a more inclusive and just society. What’s different this time around is the way in which you perceive the activism. Thanks to social media, what you could only see in the local scheme has now become international. You can see the instagram posts of people from all regions.
It is also true that this internationality has increased the amount of teenagers who want to become activists. Thanks to highly mediatized young activists, more. young people find the courage to speak and the hope to be heard.
“But they aren’t even fully educated”…
Yes, it’s undeniably true that most of the young activists you’ll meet wouldn’t have finished their university education. But these activists aren’t asking you to listen to them, they are asking you to listen to the science and the professionals. Young activists form the bridge between the science and the politics.
When a government who’s constantly complaining about youth disengagement from politics starts saying that they are becoming too involved, it means that they aren’t working in the interest of the people.
Every person deserves to be informed and educated. Therefore considering that the core aspect of being an activist is researching and sharing this research with others, teen activism matters.
So next time you want to criticize a teen who’s using her voice to speak on matters she believes in, ask yourself why you feel the need to do so instead of having an educated debate.
With representation rates so low, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the youth has taken to the streets. Climate activists only want to be herd and to be understood. So if you disagree, don’t dismiss them as saying they don’t know what they’re talking about. Debate with them and educate them. Most importantly, support them and respect them because they represent the views of the future leaders, future lawyers and future scientists.