Is the ‘activist generation’ too anxious about the future?
The future isn't what it used to be. In the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, despite decades of social upheaval and the threat of nuclear annihilation, we had a picture of humanity's future that was predominantly rosy. Such optimism informed TV shows like Star Trek and The Jetsons, in which technological progress vanquishes the millennia-old blights of starvation, war, pollution, racial conflict and gender inequality. We talked up the future.
In the 21st century we're busy talking it down, thanks to a suite of global threats, none bigger than climate change. Interesting, then, that among those moving beyond words and into action are schoolchildren. In March and May this year, more than 150,000 kids in Australia – and 1.4 million globally – answered Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg's call for school strikes (another protest, this time involving adults, is planned for September).
Millennials, labelled spoiled and politically disengaged just a few years ago, are now being dubbed the "activist generation" in the wake of last year's March for Our Lives protest in the US, which called for tighter gun laws.
"You either want young people to stop being lazy and entitled, or to stop getting involved – you can't have it both ways," says Hannah Feldman, whose PhD at the Australian National University examines the motivation among younger generations protesting for climate-change action.