Waiting with no time to wait

    Young people are frequently relegated to a state of waiting; expected to passively absorb and learn an adult culture that actively damages the earth. Governments persist in relying on harmful fossil fuels, and corporations rake in profits while causing devastation to the climate and ecosystems. Nita writes ”While politicians ignore their political voice, young people refuse to stand quietly by.” Although young people have been a part of political movements throughout history, they are currently witnesses to a global-scale display of their environmental concern, demands for change, and deliberate solidarity. Their distrust in politics has led to a new form of participation which political sociologist Sarah Pickard (2019) has labelled Do-It-Ourselves (DIO) Politics. The lack of doing by power holders has led young people to take on the challenge to do it themselves, both individually and collectively. They are not waiting to be heard but are screaming from the street corners.

    Nita’s research project, supervised by A/Prof Theresa Petray and Dr Ailie McDowall, allows her the privilege of listening to young people’s voices amid the chaotic clatter surrounding the climate change crisis. She is interested in French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice (1984), investigating habitus and capital in a field to understand a person’s action. Can this theory of practice be a theory of young people’s activism? Is it young people’s habitus, combined with their access to capital, in the field of politics that explains their action?

    “Bourdieu’s theory of practice is a useful tool in examining young people’s activism. But evidence from my research project is pointing to the inclusion of a process of conscientisation, or critical consciousness, as per Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire (1970). When young people’s knowledge of the crisis becomes transformative, they develop knowledge of their power and capacity to act. From this point, we can see the manifestation of young people’s DIO politics.”

    “As an activist, and a mother of young activists, I feel young people’s urgency. In interviews and at protests they have told me of their fears for the future, their disgust at being lied to on a structural and systemic level, and their hurt at not being taken seriously. They have also told me of the relief they discover when taking political action, and the comfort they feel in global collective solidarity.
    And they have not lost hope. The time is now. There is no more time to wait.”

    Images courtesy of Nita Alexander

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