Young people – citizens in times of climate change? A childist approach to human responsibility
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The matters of climate change are presently of concern existentially and ethically to the children and the youth. Worldwide school strikes in 2018–2019 and the Fridays for Future movement demonstrate how the young citizens assume socio-political responsibility. However, what possibilities do children and young people actually have to influence global discourse? Are adequate thought structures in place for them to be taken seriously in matters of concern to them? Given that children and youth engage with the issues of climate change, with a concern for their own future and that of our planet, the aim of this article was to take a child-centred ethical perspective and to theoretically explore conditions for intentional inclusion of children and their ethical concerns. In such a critical exploration, aspects of identity politics and intersectionality are reviewed. Empirical results from an interview study with children aged between 10 to 12 years are presented demonstrating that climate changes are of existential and ethical importance to them. Thereafter, a ‘childist’ perspective is introduced and discussed. The interviews were carried out during 2019 in eight schools in South Africa and Sweden. The children were individually interviewed with a method allowing for open responses. The schools in both countries were located in areas where a lack of water had been experienced. In this article, a theoretical framework is developed based on the ethical recognition of a commonly shared human responsibility and using the concept of ‘empowered inclusion’. It recognises children in their own right and identifies vulnerability and interdependence as being foundational to human existence.