Climate Strikes: Researcher explains how Young People can Keep up the Momentum

Harriet Thew, University of Leeds

As part of one of the largest environmental protests ever seen, over a million young people went on strike on Friday March 15 2019, calling for more ambitious action on climate change. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish school girl who protested outside the Swedish parliament every Friday throughout 2018, young people in over 100 countries left their classrooms and took to the streets.

The previous #YouthStrike4Climate on February 15 2019 mobilised over 10,000 young people in over 40 locations in the UK alone. Their marches, chants and signs captured attention and prompted debates regarding the motivations and methods of young strikers. Many were criticised by those in the government and the media for simply wanting an opportunity to miss school.

My PhD research explores youth participation in climate change governance, focusing on the UN climate negotiations. Between 2015 and 2018 I closely studied the Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) – a UK based, voluntary, youth-led group of 18 to 29 year olds – which attends the international negotiations and coordinates local and national climate change campaigns.

Members of the UK Youth Climate Coalition protest in London.
Harriet Thew, Author provided

My research shows that young people are mobilised by concern for people and wildlife, fears for the future and anger that climate action is neither sufficiently rapid nor ambitious. Young people need to feel as though they are “doing something” about climate change while politicians dither and scientists release increasingly alarming projections of future climate conditions.

The strikes have helped young activists find like-minded peers and new opportunities to engage. They articulate a collective youth voice, wielding the moral power of young people – a group which society agrees it is supposed to protect. All the same, there are threats to sustaining the movement’s momentum which need to be recognised now.

Challenge misplaced paternalism

The paternalism that gives youth a moral platform is a double-edged sword. Patronising responses from adults in positions of authority, from head teachers to the prime minister, dismiss their scientifically informed concerns and attack the messenger, rather than dealing with the message itself.

You’re too young to understand the complexity of this.

You’ll grow out of these beliefs.

You just want to skip school.

Stay in school and wait your turn to make a difference.

Striking may hurt your future job prospects.

The list goes on …

This frightens some children and young people into silence, but doesn’t address the factors which mobilised them in the first place. These threats are also largely unfounded.


Read more:
Climate change: a climate scientist answers questions from teenagers


To any young person reading this, I want to reassure you, as a university educator, that critical thinking, proactivity and an interest in current affairs are qualities that universities encourage. Over 200 academics signed this open letter – myself included – showing our support for the school strikes.

Don’t ‘grow up’

Growing up is inevitable, but it can cause problems for youth movements. As young people gain experience of climate action and expand their professional networks, they “grow out of” being able to represent youth, often getting jobs to advocate for other groups or causes. While this can be positive for individuals, institutional memory is lost when experienced advocates move on to do other things. This puts youth at a disadvantage in relation to other groups who are better resourced and don’t have a “time limit” in how long they can represent their cause.

Well-established youth organisations, such as Guides and Scouts, whom I have worked with in the past, can use their large networks and professional experience to sustain youth advocacy on climate change, though they lack the resources to do so alone. It would also help for other campaigners to show solidarity with the young strikers, and to recognise youth as an important group in climate change debates. This will give people more opportunity to keep supporting the youth climate movement as they get older.

Grow the climate justice movement

Researching the same group of young people for three years, I have identified a shift in their attitudes over time. As young participants become more involved in the movement, they encounter different types of injustices voiced by other groups. They hear activists sharing stories of the devastating climate impacts already experienced by communities, in places where sea level rise is inundating homes and droughts are killing livestock and causing starvation.

The climate justice movement emphasises how climate change exacerbates racial and economic inequality but frequently overlooks the ways these inequalities intersect with age-based disadvantages. Forgetting that frontline communities contain young people, youth movements in developed countries like the UK begin to question the validity of their intergenerational injustice claims.

Indigenous people often inhabit the frontline of impacts from pollution and climate change.
Rainforest Action Network/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Many feel ashamed for having claimed vulnerability, given their relatively privileged position. Over time, they lose faith in their right to be heard. It would strengthen the entire climate movement if other climate justice campaigners more vocally acknowledged young people as a vulnerable group and shared their platform so that these important voices could better amplify one another.

With my own platform, I would like to say this to the thousands who went on strike. You matter. You have a right to be heard and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to speak out. Have confidence in your message, engage with others but stay true to your principles. Stick together and remember that even when you leave school and enter work – you’re never too old to be a youth advocate.

Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.The Conversation

Harriet Thew, PhD Researcher in Climate Change Governance, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What did Max Weber mean by the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism?

ludwigshafen

The BASF factory at Ludwigshafen, Germany, pictured on a postcard in 1881. Courtesy Wikipedia

Peter Ghosh | Aeon Ideas

Max Weber’s famous text The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) is surely one of the most misunderstood of all the canonical works regularly taught, mangled and revered in universities across the globe. This is not to say that teachers and students are stupid, but that this is an exceptionally compact text that ranges across a very broad subject area, written by an out-and-out intellectual at the top of his game. He would have been dumb­founded to find that it was being used as an elementary introduction to sociology for undergraduate students, or even schoolchildren.

We use the word ‘capitalism’ today as if its meaning were self-evident, or else as if it came from Marx, but this casualness must be set aside. ‘Capitalism’ was Weber’s own word and he defined it as he saw fit. Its most general meaning was quite simply modernity itself: capitalism was ‘the most fateful power in our modern life’. More specifically, it controlled and generated ‘modern Kultur’, the code of values by which people lived in the 20th-century West, and now live, we may add, in much of the 21st-century globe. So the ‘spirit’ of capitalism is also an ‘ethic’, though no doubt the title would have sounded a bit flat if it had been called The Protestant Ethic and the Ethic of Capitalism.

This modern ‘ethic’ or code of values was unlike any other that had gone before. Weber supposed that all previous ethics – that is, socially accepted codes of behaviour rather than the more abstract propositions made by theologians and philosophers – were religious. Religions supplied clear messages about how to behave in society in straightforward human terms, messages that were taken to be moral absolutes binding on all people. In the West this meant Christianity, and its most important social and ethical prescription came out of the Bible: ‘Love thy neighbour.’ Weber was not against love, but his idea of love was a private one – a realm of intimacy and sexuality. As a guide to social behaviour in public places ‘love thy neighbour’ was obviously nonsense, and this was a principal reason why the claims of churches to speak to modern society in authentically religious terms were marginal. He would not have been surprised at the long innings enjoyed by the slogan ‘God is love’ in the 20th-century West – its career was already launched in his own day – nor that its social consequences should have been so limited.

The ethic or code that dominated public life in the modern world was very different. Above all it was impersonal rather than personal: by Weber’s day, agreement on what was right and wrong for the individual was breaking down. The truths of religion – the basis of ethics – were now contested, and other time-honoured norms – such as those pertaining to sexuality, marriage and beauty – were also breaking down. (Here is a blast from the past: who today would think to uphold a binding idea of beauty?) Values were increasingly the property of the individual, not society. So instead of humanly warm contact, based on a shared, intuitively obvious understanding of right and wrong, public behaviour was cool, reserved, hard and sober, governed by strict personal self-control. Correct behaviour lay in the observance of correct procedures. Most obviously, it obeyed the letter of the law (for who could say what its spirit was?) and it was rational. It was logical, consistent, and coherent; or else it obeyed unquestioned modern realities such as the power of numbers, market forces and technology.

There was another kind of disintegration besides that of traditional ethics. The proliferation of knowledge and reflection on knowledge had made it impossible for any one person to know and survey it all. In a world which could not be grasped as a whole, and where there were no universally shared values, most people clung to the particular niche to which they were most committed: their job or profession. They treated their work as a post-religious calling, ‘an absolute end in itself’, and if the modern ‘ethic’ or ‘spirit’ had an ultimate found­ation, this was it. One of the most widespread clichés about Weber’s thought is to say that he preached a work ethic. This is a mistake. He personally saw no particular virtue in sweat – he thought his best ideas came to him when relaxing on a sofa with a cigar – and had he known he would be misunder­stood in this way, he would have pointed out that a capacity for hard work was something that did not dist­inguish the modern West from previous soc­ieties and their value systems. However, the idea that people were being ever more defined by the blinkered focus of their employment was one he regarded as profoundly modern and characteristic.

The blinkered pro­fessional ethic was common to entrepreneurs and an increasingly high-wage, skilled labour force, and it was this combination that produced a situation where the ‘highest good’ was the making of money and ever more money, without any limit. This is what is most readily recognisable as the ‘spirit’ of capitalism, but it should be stressed that it was not a simple ethic of greed which, as Weber recognised, was age-old and eternal. In fact there are two sets of ideas here, though they overlap. There is one about potentially universal rational pro­cedures – specialisation, logic, and formally consistent behaviour – and another that is closer to the modern economy, of which the central part is the professional ethic. The modern situation was the product of narrow-minded adhesion to one’s particular function under a set of conditions where the attempt to understand modernity as a whole had been abandoned by most people. As a result they were not in control of their own destiny, but were governed by the set of rational and impersonal pro­cedures which he likened to an iron cage, or ‘steel housing’. Given its rational and impersonal foundations, the housing fell far short of any human ideal of warmth, spontaneity or breadth of outlook; yet rationality, technology and legality also produced material goods for mass consumption in unprecedented amounts. For this reason, though they could always do so if they chose to, people were unlikely to leave the housing ‘until the last hundredweight of fossil fuel is burned up’.

It is an extremely powerful analysis, which tells us a great deal about the 20th-century West and a set of Western ideas and priorities that the rest of the world has been increasingly happy to take up since 1945. It derives its power not simply from what it says, but because Weber sought to place under­standing before judgment, and to see the world as a whole. If we wish to go beyond him, we must do the same.Aeon counter – do not remove

Peter Ghosh

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Socially Conscious Hip-Hop

Hopsin – Ill Mind Of Hopsin 7

It’s us, find power
Live life, mind power
It’s us, find power
Live life, mind power

Yo, fuck anybody I might alarm
Life is a tour, I sit and ride along
Taking some notes and then I write the song
I’m staring down the road my life has gone
Is this where I belong?
Is it wrong to not believe in right and wrong?
My mental state is fucking me up
And I cry the pond while asking you for some answers
But we don’t have that type of bond
That my desires gone with the way that I’ve been living lately
If I died right now, you’d turn the fire on
Sick of this bullshit, niggas call me a sellout
Cause I hopped on Christianity so strongly then I fell out
Now I’m avoiding questions like a scared dog with his tail down
Feeling so damn humiliated because they looking at me like I’m hellbound
What story should I tell now? I’ll just expose the truth
I’m so close to the fucking edge, I should be close to you
But who the fuck are You? You never showed the proof
And I’m only fucking human yo, what am I supposed to do?
There’s way too many different religions with vivid descriptions
Begging all fucking men and women to listen
I can’t even beat my dick without getting convicted
These ain’t wicked decisions, I got different intentions
I’ve been itching to get it, I’ve been given assistance
But the whole fucking system is twisted
Now I’m dealing with this backlash because Marcus isn’t a Christian
And I’ve been told that my sinful life is an addiction
But I can’t buy it, it’s just too hard to stand beside it
I need an answer and humans can’t provide it
I look at the Earth and Sun and I can tell a genius man designed it
It’s truly mind blowing, I can’t deny it
Is heaven real? Is it fake? Is it really how I fantasize it?
Where’s the Holy Ghost at? How long it take Man to find it?
My mind’s a nonstop tape playing and I can’t rewind it
You gave me a Bible and expect me not to analyze it?
I’m frustrated and you provoked it
I’m not reading that motherfucking book because a human wrote it
I have a fucking brain, you should know it
You gave it to me to think to avoid every useless moment
It was a mission that I had to abort
Cause humans be lying with such an inaccurate source
It’s gon’ be hard to put me back on the course
Next Jehovah’s Witness to come on my porch
I swear I’m slammin’ the door
A lot of folks believe it though, but I’m not surprised
Humans are fucking dumb, still thinking that Pac’s alive
I ain’t trying to take your legacy and torch it down
I’m just saying: I ain’t heard shit from the horse’s mouth
Just sheep always telling stories of older guys
Who were notarized by you when you finally vocalized
Now I’m supposed to bow my head and close my eyes
And somehow let the Holy Ghost arise
Sounds like a fucking Poltergeist
Show yourself and then boom it’s done
Every rumor’s gone, I no longer doubt this shit, you’re the One
I’ll admit that my sinful ways was stupid fun
And all my old habits can hop onto of a roof to plunge
I’ll donate to a charity that could use the funds
Fuck the club, instead of bitches I’d hang with a group of nuns
And everyone that I ran into would know what I came to do
I wouldn’t take a step unless it was in the name of You
I hate the fact that I have to believe
You haven’t been chatting with me like you did Adam and Eve
And I ain’t seen no fucking talking snake unravel from trees
With an apple to eat, that shit never happens to me
I don’t know if you do or don’t exist, it is driving me crazy
Send your condolences, this is me reaching to you so don’t forget
If hell is truly your pit of fire and I get thrown in it
I’mma probably regret the fact that I ever wrote this shit
My gut feeling says it’s all fake
I hate to say it but fuck it, shit I done lost faith
This isn’t a small phase, my perspective’s all changed
My thoughts just keep picking shit apart all day
And in my mind I make perfect sense
If you aren’t real then all my prayers aren’t worth a cent
That would mean that I could just make up what my purpose is
And I could just sit in church and say “fuck” in the services
Man what if Jesus was a facade?
Then that would mean the government’s god
I feel like they’ve been brainwashing us with a lot
So much that we don’t even notice that we’re stuck in the box
Man everything is “what if”, why is it always “what if”
Planet Earth “what if”, the universe “what if”
My sacrifice “what if”, my afterlife “what if”
Every fucking thing that deals with you is fucking suspect
I’m fucking done, I’m fucking done
This is my fucking life and I’m living it, I’m having fun
If you really care for me, prove that I need to live carefully
But I’ll be damned if I put my own pleasure aside for an afterlife that isn’t even guaranteed
We are you, and you’re us, stop playing games
My life’s all I got, and heaven is all in my brain
And when I feel I am in hell, my ideas are what get me through pain
Do as you please, and I’ll just do me
I’m a human, I’ll stay in my lane
Ill mind

Tupac Shakur – Changes

Come on come on
I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.
First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers.
Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other.
“It’s time to fight back”, that’s what Huey said.
2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead.
I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin’ changes.
Learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of 2 distant strangers.
And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?
I’d love to go back to when we played as kids
but things changed, and that’s the way it is

[Bridge w/ changing ad libs]
Come on come on
That’s just the way it is
Things’ll never be the same
That’s just the way it is
aww yeah
[Repeat]

I see no changes. All I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under.
I wonder what it takes to make this one better place…
let’s erase the wasted.
Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right.
‘Cause both black and white are smokin’ crack tonight.
And only time we chill is when we kill each other.
It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.
And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain’t ready to see a black President, uhh.
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact…
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.
But some things will never change.
Try to show another way, but they stayin’ in the dope game.
Now tell me what’s a mother to do?
Bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you.
You gotta operate the easy way.
“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way.
Sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,”
Well hey, well that’s the way it is.

[Bridge]

[Talking:]
We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.

And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets and the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.
But now I’m back with the facts givin’ ’em back to you.
Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up, crack you up and pimp smack you up.
You gotta learn to hold ya own.
They get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile phone.
But tell the cops they can’t touch this.
I don’t trust this, when they try to rush I bust this.
That’s the sound of my tool. You say it ain’t cool, but mama didn’t raise no fool.
And as long as I stay black, I gotta stay strapped and I never get to lay back.
‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the payback.
Some buck that I roughed up way back… comin’ back after all these years.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat. That’s the way it is. uhh

[Bridge ’til fade:]
Some things will never change

Dead Prez – Propaganda

[Intro: news snippets]
“Let me now turn, to our program for the future…”
“The economy right now, is extremely supportive of the president and his
policies”
“FBI scientists have found chemical traces, consistent with a bomb or a
missle, on a piece of wreckage…”
“Police using clubs and tear gas against demonstrators…”
“They called me a mother -(bleeped out)-ing so-and-so…and a white
facist…like they said, ‘you’re getting some of your own medicine’…”

[Singing:]
Telling lies, to our vision
Telling lies, to our children
Telling lies, to our babies
Only truth, can take us away

[Verse 1:]
You can’t fool all the people all of the time
But if you fool the right ones, then the rest will fall behind
Tell me who’s got control of your mind? your world view?
Is it the news or the movie you’re taking your girl to? (uh)
Know what i’m sayin cause Uncle Sam got a plan
If you examine what they tellin us then you will understand
What they plantin in the seeds of the next generation
Feeding our children miseducation
No one knows if there’s UFO’s or any life on mars
Or what they do when they up in the stars
Because i don’t believe a word of what the president said
He filling our head with lies got us hypnotised
When he be speaking in cold words about crime and poverty
Drugs, welfare, prisons, guns and robbery
It really means us, there’s no excuse for the slander
But what’s good for the goose, is still good for the gander
See…

[Chorus:]
I don’t believe Bob Marley died from cancer
31 years ago i woulda been a panther
They killed Huey cause they knew he had the answer
The views that you see in the news is propaganda

[Singing:]
Telling lies, to our vision
Telling lies, to our children
Telling lies, to our babies
Only truth, can take us away

[Verse 2:]
I don’t want no computer chip in my arm
I don’t wanna die by a nuclear bomb
I say we all rush the pentagon, pull out guns
And grab the intercom, my first word’s will be I believe
Man made God, outta ignorance and fear
If God made man, then why the hell would he put us here?
I thought he’s supposed to be the all loving
The same God who let Hitler put the Jews in the oven
We don’t fall for the regular shit, they try to feed us
All this half-ass leadership, flippin position
They turn politcian and shut the hell up and follow tradition
For your TV screen, is telling lies to your vision
Every channel got some brainwashed cop shit to watch
Running up in niggas cribs claiming that they heard shots
It’s a plot, but busta can you tell me who’s greedier?
Big corporations, the pigs or the media?
Sign of the times, terrorism on the rise
Commercial airplanes, falling out the sky like flies
Make me wonder what secrets went down with Bob Brown (?)
Who burnt churches to the ground with no evidence found?
It’s not coincidence, it’s been too many studied incidents
It coulda been the Klan who put that bomb at the Olympics
But it probably was the FBI, deep at the call
Cuz if they make us all panic then they can start martial law

[Chorus:]
I don’t believe Bob Marley died from cancer
31 years ago i woulda been a panther
They killed Huey cause they knew he had the answer
The views that you see in the news is propaganda

I don’t believe Bob Marley died from cancer
31 years ago i woulda been a panther
You killed Huey cause you knew he had the answer
The views that you see in the news is muthafuckin propaganda

[Singing:]
Police is telling lies fooling millions
What are they teaching our kids in these school buildings?
Televised, enterprised in all the killing
Controlling our lives, this ain’t living
No this ain’t living

[Chant:]
FBI, CIA
ATF, KKK
IRS, TNT
CBS, NBC

FBI, CIA
ATF, KKK
IRS, TNT
CBS, NBC

[Singing:]
Telling lies, to our vision
Telling lies, to our children
Telling lies, to our babies
Only truth, can take us away

[News snippet:]
“uh, we view each other uh, with uh, a great love and a great understanding and that we
try to expand this to the general, uh, black population and also people,
oppressed people all over the world, and, i think that uh, we differ from
uhmm… uh, some other groups simply because we understand the system better
than uh, most uh, groups understand the system, and uh, with this
realisation, uh, we attempt to form a strong political base based in the
community with the only strength that we have and that’s the strength of uh,
a potentially destructive force if we don’t get freedom.”

Society

Eddie Vedder – Society

It’s a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won’t be free

Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me

When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space

Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you’re not lonely without me

There’s those thinking more or less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keepin’ score?
Means for every point you make your level drops
Kinda like you’re startin’ from the top
And you can’t do that

Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you’re not angry if I disagree
Society, you’re crazy indeed
I hope you’re not lonely without me