Abstract: A Review of Youth’s Attitude Towards Climate and Environmental Activism (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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A Review of Youth’s Attitude Towards Climate and Environmental Activism

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Taylor Bazajou, BS, MSW Student, University of Texas at San Antonio
Bonita Sharma, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

For decades, activists have demanded local and global environmental actions in programs and policy changes to mitigate climate change. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Climate Action calls on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact. Today, children and youth have taken to the streets, conferences and their representatives to demand justice for the planet, people, and their own future. Growing national and international youth activism on climate change calls on reviewing the evidence-based knowledge on youth activism in effecting environmental policy changes.The purpose of this study is to conduct systematic review of literature on empirical research on attitudes of youths towards environmental activism in the fight for climate justice.


Using the PRISMA model and Covidence platform, this review focused on peer-reviewed studies from 1999 to 2019. It used “ climate change”, “climate activism”, “environmental justice”, “climate justice”, “youth activism”, “advocacy”, “young, climate strike, qualitative and quantitative” as keywords for inclusion criteria. Researchers reviewed literature from A to Z databases including ERIC, PsychExtra, Academic Search Complete, Social Work Abstracts, PsychInfo, and Google Scholar databases. Media reports, literature analyzing adult advocacy data, dissertations, grey media, non-English and conceptual papers were excluded from the review.

Results & Findings

A total of 304 titles were selected for the review and narrowed to 16 for the abstract review. Among them, 3 mixed-method studies, 2 qualitative studies and 1 quantitative peer reviewed articles with a total sample of n=6 were included in the study. Most of the studies were conducted from the developed nations’ perspectives, except for one from Uganda. Findings suggest that youth awareness and action differed in each country reflective of their lived experiences, knowledge, values, and contexts of their communities (Mugagga, Metternich, Schweizer-Ries, Asiimwe, & Riemer, 2018). Youth have partial knowledge of environmental issues and have general understanding of biodegradable material and global warming; however, are less knowledge about sustainable development and ecological footprints (Goldman, Pe’er, Yavetz, 2019). Overall, youth have improved self-efficacy to effect change and youth view of themselves as role models for younger members. They are willing to include environmentally supportive activities within regular youth movement activities. In relevance to political generations, age groups interests varied in interests of environmental change activities (Bertuzzi, 2019). Children and youth enjoy actively participating in family action plans, community action projects, tree planting campaign and community gardens (Trott, 2019). In general, youth perceive environmental and climate injustices based upon their own generational perceptions of future risks, while claim solidarity on injustices experienced by other groups in the present.


As future leaders in sustainable development, understanding youth knowledge and attitude towards collective action for environmental and climate justice in effecting policy change is important. Youth in general require education about factors contributing to environmental changes, environmental injustices, and pathways to effecting solidarity for policy changes. We further recommend going beyond colonial models of youth activism to include youth and children from the indigenous, minority communities and global south in environmental justice voice research, policy and practice.