How To Be As Courageous As Our Young People
Supporting young people’s activism
On Friday, September 20th over 2 million young people around the world marched out of their schools demanding action on our environmental crisis. Over the next week, over 7 million people took action from Brazil to New Zealand, to New York City, making it one of the largest coordinated global protests in history.
At Cultures of Dignity, we watched millions of young people speak out to demand dignity for all: their future, their political voice, and the earth. We have listened to young people’s overwhelming concerns for our planet and their frustration that adults are not taking responsibility and leadership as they should.
We deeply respect their passion, commitment, advocacy, and ability to unite around a common cause and we want to shine the light on our civic leaders who are acknowledging young people’s voice. Our Cultures of Dignity editorial advisors shared inspiring stories of adults supporting young people’s efforts like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, offering to co-sign school absence permission slips for students who attended the climate rally.
Meanwhile, we have watched in disbelief as some adults responded by dismissing, mocking, or propagating despicable false information about them. Young people must get our support against those adults who actively undermine their right to speak out. President Trump even patronized 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg by sarcastically calling her “very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” in a tweet. What we are seeing is adults who think it is acceptable to verbally attack and laugh at children who are trying to address the wrongs they see in the world
While much of the attacks are focused on Greta Thunberg, she is hardly the only young person who is working to address climate issues. Are we really going to allow other adults to attack young people who are advocating for a better future?
Think of the irony: adults are lashing out at young people who are demonstrating initiative, responsibility, and leadership. Why? The answer is clear: because as long as adults can continue to dismiss young people with the stereotypes usually associated with them, laziness, superficiality, and self-orientation, they don’t have to take young people seriously.
We have to speak out. We can’t allow young people to bear the weight of the world they are inheriting from us. We can not tolerate adults dismissing young people or demeaning their passion, their anger, or their advocacy.
What can you do?
- The next time you talk to a young person, ask them their thoughts on the youth activism happening. Ask them what they care about. And then listen and be prepared to be changed by what you hear.
- If you talk to a young person who is frustrated with adults, you can say, “You’re right and I’m sorry. I acknowledge the legacy of generations of adults not taking responsibility to address problems as we should.”
- If you are a parent, advocate and support schools to create spaces where adults are listening to young people on the issues young people identify as being important to them. And if you go to a forum like this and an adult attempts to dominate the conversation, say, “What you’re saying is important but we are here to listen to young people and respect the information they are sharing with us.”
- Show up in the streets with young people
We have to acknowledge the challenges and move to face them. We must actively, directly, address the environmental crisis’ multi-faceted challenges. Even if you would never mock a young person’s passion to change the world, know that there are other adults who do. Our job is to look for opportunities to support young people’s advocacy so the world takes them seriously.