College of Humanities

Research Explores Youth Social Movements Responding to Climate Change

The world is currently battling with the impact of climate change and the youth will one day be responsible for decisions made today.

So says Ms Sabrina Maggott who graduated with a Masters in Social Sciences for her research into youth social movements responding to climate change.

Maggott used South Africa and Germany as case studies to make a cross-country comparison of youth social movements responding to climate change in different regions of the globe.

‘Climate change has been a long-standing issue for most people,’said Maggott. ‘Although we have been faced with climate change for decades, there has been a significant increase in its effects within the 21st century. Billions of tons of carbon dioxide get released into the earth’s atmosphere every year which is a direct cause of human impacts such as the burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas production.’

She argued that ‘the devastating effects climate change brings high temperatures, extreme weather, droughts, floods, water insecurity, and a decline in agriculture, and social inequalities. Although these impacts affect everyone, the youth of the planet are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change and their futures.’

Maggott highlighted that the rapid rise in youth social movements responding to climate change since 2018 was unprecedented and captured global attention very quickly.

‘Their messages have been clear in their activism – they intend to hold decision-makers, government, and institutions accountable for their lack of action. They passionately believe older generations have failed them and that they will be the ones to pay the price. They have become knowledgeable about climate change and the challenges faced by the youth globally. The power of these movements demonstrates how adamant they are about refusing to let the effects of climate change ruin their futures or that of future generations,’ said Maggott.

Her study uncovered how and why these social movements formed and the impacts they have had on local and international societies. It has also

revealed the differences in youth activism in developing countries such as South Africa in comparison with developed countries like Germany.

‘The more we involve the youth in global issues such as climate change the better equipped adults they become to not repeat the same mistakes as leaders before them,’ she said. ‘My research has proven that developing countries such as South Africa need more participation from the youth in global issues. They need to be given the full support and means from current leaders in order to make a valuable contribution to these issues.’

She is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor Dr Lubna Nadvi for their support and encouragement during the research process.

Advising other scholars, she said, ‘Never give up. It takes a lot of hard work but if you are passionate about what you are researching, you will find yourself enjoying it and before you know it your research will be complete.’

Maggott plans to work for the United Nations in order to make a difference in the world of International Relations and Politics on climate change issues.