Home Institution

Brandeis University

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action


Climate activism is the tool of young people to rise and fight for their future and the future of the planet. Today it is necessary that young people engage as climate activists. My research asks what life events motivate youth to become climate activists. I looked into the initial life events which spark the motivation of young people to understand their initial motives for joining the climate movement. I looked into where the motivation came from, a concern for nature, a concern for social justice or the interconnectedness of the two. I also looked into the life events of individuals to see what sparked the initial motivation. My research creates an understanding of the motivations of youth climate activists so the movement will grow and strengthen through understanding the commonalities found between activists and activist groups.

I interviewed twelve university students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old in Sydney and Canberra coming from four universities. I asked each participant to share the events in their lives which motivated them to become climate activists. From these interviews, the trend for concern for the environment as an initial motivator to join the climate movement appeared from the data. The trend went from concern for the environment to concern for social justice as the participants grew.

Four themes emerged as youth climate activists answered the question on life events which motivate action. The four themes, nature connection through outdoor experiences, family influence and mentorship, seeing injustice in the community and world, and peer-to-peer learning, became clear categories of the life events that sparked motivation for the young people. The final theme of initial motivation, peer-to-peer learning appear most frequently. Young activists coming together to create change for a better future empowered the participants to feel useful and join the climate movement. This study of the life events works to understand the ways youth climate activists are similar, to engage future generations to join in the movement through discovering the initial motivations and inspiration of youth climate activists.


Australian Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Climate | Environmental Sciences | Environmental Studies | Higher Education | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Influence and Political Communication | Sustainability


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