University of Stirling academic, Dr Matthew Hibberd, presented findings from a major Indian and UK research project examining climate change communications and young people at the Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival in New Delhi this week.
In their report, Look Forward in Anger, Dr Hibberd and his University of Bournemouth colleague, Dr An Nguyen, state that young people in the UK and India remain deeply frustrated at the lack of progress in tacking climate change, amounting to a shared lack of vision for improving the lives and future prospects of young people around the world.
Dr Hibberd says: “While participants in the UK understand key aspects of climate change, there is a high degree of pessimism about current international inaction to tackle climate change. This is linked to broader concerns about the state of the world economy, particularly in the UK, and to the perceived inability of some leaders who lack the necessary vision to tackle key social issues.
“We are living in a society that does not encourage much hope for the future, particularly for young people, with fewer jobs and less prospects and opportunities. This could contribute to a general lack of enthusiasm about many areas, including sustainability.”
However, the research teams in the UK and India found key examples of good practice involving young campaigners in sustainability projects: participants valued the experience of working on environmental projects which helped them to promote greener lifestyles, greater self awareness and confidence.
Dr Hibberd continues: “We found that only a minority of our focus group members in the UK were actively involved in climate change campaigns. There was a perception among some that environmental campaigns did not have any discernable effect on everyday lives.
“Some focus group members felt a certain detachment from nature, chiming with Sir David Attenborough’s recent argument that ‘We have a huge moral responsibility towards the rest of the planet. A hundred years ago people certainly had that…They were aware of the seasons and aware of what they were doing to the land and animals around them… So over 50 percent is to some degree out of touch with the natural world and don't even see an animal from one day to the next unless it's a rat or a pigeon.”
Dr Hibberd said the research demonstrates clear evidence of youth involvement in environmental activities. He added: “There is a lot of good work being done by youth organisations, campaign groups, schools and national and local governments. But there remains much scepticism whether the international community as a whole wishes to tackle this problem seriously and present a coherent low carbon vision to our young people. There is no doubt that this scepticism is related to the current negative economic and geo political outlook.”
The interim research report, Look Forward in Anger, has been funded by the British Council-run UK and India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
The UK research was undertaken by Dr Matthew Hibberd, University of Stirling and Dr An Nguyen, University of Bournemouth.
The Indian research was undertaken by Alka Tomar, Rohit Singh and colleagues from the Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi.
The Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival is taking place between 6-10 December, New Delhi, India.