“We Are Radical In Our Kindness”: The Political Socialisation, Motivations, Demands and Protest Actions of Young Environmental Activists in Britain

In: Youth and Globalization
Sarah Pickard Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Institut du Monde Anglophone, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France,

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Benjamin Bowman Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England, UK,

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Dena Arya PhD Candidate, School of Politics and International Relations, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, England, UK,

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The year 2018 was a watershed in environmental activism, especially regarding young activists. Greta Thunberg started her School Strikes for Climate and the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion was founded. This article deals with young people’s involvement in these two global movements. It draws on 60 semi-structured interviews carried out with young environmental activists before, during and after protest actions under the auspices of the climate strikes and/or Extinction Rebellion in five British locations.

The period of the political socialisation of this young generation is outlined and how it contributes to young people becoming environmental activists. The article then identifies the “radical” demands made by young environmental activists and their “radical” repertoire of contention in relation to their perceptions of the “radical” compared to hegemonic definitions.

The interviews show that these young environmentalists are part of a generation of activists committed to obtaining significant change from powerholders through the use of deliberately non-violent direct action that challenges academic perceptions of radical repertoires of contention.

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