Various international movements led by children and young people seek a better world for all.
In August 2019, after four years of struggle, Kelsey Juliana, 23, and the civil group Our Children’s Trust, composed of 21 young leaders aged 15-23, succeeded in prosecuting their lawsuit against the U.S. federal government. This lawsuit included their then president, Barack Obama.
The lawsuit entitled “Juliana v. The United States” sought to have the U.S. federal government recognize its responsibility for the increase in greenhouse emissions and the exploitation of fossil fuels. Recognizing the damage done to the planet, they had to take action through their policies to prevent industries from continuing to exploit resources.
This case was dismissed by the federal courts in January 2020, since according to the legal criteria, the fight for the environment is not a matter of the courts.
However, despite the negative resolution by the State, the case was driven by a growing wave of young leaders who, thanks to the great importance they have taken on the Internet and social networks, are seeking to have their causes heard and amplified in societies where they are rarely paid attention.
Young leaders and protest
Sixteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg began her protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish parliament to demand greater attention to environmental problems. She never imagined that her movement would have an international impact with more than 70 countries involved and hundreds of thousands of young people, girls and boys like her, protesting for a better environmental future. Greta quickly became the face of the international climate struggle and a symbol of adolescent protest itself. She was inspired by the students in Parkland, Florida, who left their classes in February 2018 to demonstrate against gun violence on school grounds in search of much tougher gun control in the United States.
The same goes for the young protestors for democracy in Hong Kong and the thousands of young Latin American women who raise their voices to demand a stop to gender-based violence.
Through their movements the new generations have shown that the key to achieving change in the world is to be heard by the right people.
Young leaders and the opportunity for change
Thanks to the media push for the climate change protests, the Japanese international clothing company UNIQLO has set a goal of stopping the use of plastic packaging by 85%. Its alternatives aim to avoid generating almost all plastic waste by the end of the year.
Also, clear concerns have been raised in areas of online security and privacy in the use of social networks, which have prompted new controls and measures by companies like Facebook and Google.
The same goes for UNICEF by including its “youth ambassadors” programme in the Internet Governance Forum, which seeks to define human rights and responsibilities in the digital age.
These precedents, besides exemplifying how the voices of young people have participated in the debate to understand our relationship with companies and governments, also reveal how those involved have, in turn, listened to the changes that the new generations and their young leaders are demanding.
Young people, girls and boys are no longer just users of products and services, but are openly involved in creating and modifying them, as well as in the new establishment of public policies that are beneficial to all ages.
It is undeniable that young leaders and their voices, carried by the new technologies, have promoted urgent actions, and have made the international population aware of issues such as climate change, online security, civil rights or democracy, with a speed and seriousness that is consistent with the times we live in.
Sources and references:
Simon, M. (2019, 11 August). The Kids Suing to Save the World from Climate Change. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/climate-change-kids-juliana-plantiffs-wired25/
Schwartz, J. (2020, 17 January). Court Quashes Youth Climate Change Case Against Government. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/climate/juliana-climate-case.html
Gasser, U. (2019, 26 November). AI Innovators Should Be Listening to Kids. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/ai-innovators-should-be-listening-to-kids/
Watts, J. (2019, 3 December). How a 16-Year-Old Girl Started a Global Climate Protest. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/a-teen-started-a-global-climate-protest-what-are-you-doing/