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Technology, war or social solutions? – Vision, fears and hopes of young people facing climate change

–       By       Michele       D’Elia,       Adam       Kolinger       and       Ilka       Roose

Climate change is concerning everybody. This is an often-used statement, which is
spoken fast and easily. But obviously climate change does not affect people’s real life in all
places over the world equally. Young people tend to a have a different view on social-political
development than grown-ups. How do they receive and react towards climate change issues?
Are they concerned about change – even if they might not experience it directly?
The following interviews were made with young girls and boys in three different
countries: Czech, Zimbabwe and Germany. They give an overview about the broad level of
awareness of today’s youth, depending on age, life background and experience.

Interview       on       Monday       9th       of       December       2013,       Germany       

Jana is a nine-year old girl who lives with her family in Dorsten. She is growing up in
a quiet neighbourhood in a rural area. During the talk she was quiet unsure about saying the
right thing. Nevertheless she really tried to help by answering the questions seriously. Here is
what she knows and thinks about climate change:

Ilka: First of all I would like you to ask: Did you hear about climate change and can
you explain it to me?
Jana: Yes, I heard about it. But I am not quiet sure what it means. Thunderstorms, for
example. I think if there is a thunderstorm, it could be caused by climate change.

Ilka: And do you see or feel anything caused by climate change in your daily life?
Jana: Ehm. (Thinking) No, just thunderstorms.

Ilka: All right. Now, I have another question for you. Can you imagine how the future
would look like 20 years from now on?
Jana: No. I am sorry I do not know that. But I know how the future will look like in
50 years from now, if you like to hear about that. They told us in school. It said on a working
paper that 50 years from now on, there would be no kid late at school because all the alarm
clocks would work perfectly and wake them up early enough.

Ilka: Ok, that’s interesting. And can you imagine something else? Maybe something
about how the people would live like?
Jana: Ehm, yes…I think that there will be hologram televisions. That means that you
can talk to the television. You just say: ‘Switch the channel!’ And it will do that. Also the
computers will be with hologram. So you just tell them to turn on and they will follow your
instructions. Ehm. Also, I believe that the people will have to go to work still. But they will
not have to work so much and so long as they do now.

Ilka: And what do you think about the environment? How will nature be in 20 or 50
Jana: As far as I can see, it will be the same as today. The nature will not change in
the future.

Ilka: All right. And now I have a last question for you. You told me, that nature would
stay the same. Do you think that the people have a responsibility towards nature? I mean, is
there a certain way of life or things to do or not to do in order to protect nature?
Jana: I don ́t know, if I understood the question. Ehm. But I think you should not
produce too much waste. You should not buy a lot of things and then just throw it away or
pour it. For example, one day we went on a trip to the forest with school. And when we were
there, we found a refrigerator in the woods. People just go there and pour their waste in the
forest. You must not do that. Also you should not drop things on the ground. You have to
throw it in the garbage can and you always have to separate it, too.

Ilka: OK. I understand. Thank you very much for answering my questions.

The conversation with Jana was pretty interesting. As she was really serious on
answering the questions right, she showed just a few own thoughts and imaginations. Still,
the interview shows that it was not the first time for her hearing about climate change.
Nevertheless, it did not seem that this is a big topic for her – neither in school nor in daily
life. It is remarkable, that she was not concerned at all about the environment changing in
future. On the opposite, she believed more in technological progress.

Interview       on       Wednesday       11th       of       January,       Zimbabwe        

This interview was arranged via INTERNET. Unfortunately the distance did not allow
to have a face-to-face conversation. However, it was quite interesting to have the point of
view of someone living a completely different reality in comparison with someone living in
Europe. For reasons, that will be clear throughout the analysis of this talk. The person who
replies to the questions is Chadya. She is a 20 years old fresher of the University of

Michele: Do you notice any effects or consequences of climate change?
Chadya: Youngsters are noticing and feeling the effects of climate change and the
risks associated with it. For example, high global temperatures have resulted in unpredictable
rainfall patterns, loss in precipitation, water scarcity and recurrent droughts and famines. This
has a tendency to affect the youth especially those in rural areas who rely on agriculture as a
means of survival. High temperatures affect attention levels paid by students as most rural and
some urban schools are poorly ventilated reducing performance levels. Islands such as Takuu
and Tulan, off the coast of Papua New Guinea have been reported to be sinking owing to the
raise of global temperatures that in turn caused snowcaps in the Polar Regions to melt and
consequently an increase in the Pacific Ocean. In Zimbabwe, our major water reservoirs have
been underfed in the past years because of low rainfall, creating water problems in cities such
as Bulawayo and Harare. Statistics show that 95% of Africa’s agricultural produce hasn’t
grown under rain fed conditions, and this poses serious threats not only to livelihoods but also
to food sovereignty and ability of governments to feed their own people without having to
rely on foreign aid.

Michele: Thank you. Concerning this, can you tell me about how you think the world
would be in 20 years from now on?
Chadya: I think if we continue operating under a business as usual scenario, mankind
risk extinction and would be rendered powerless by the effects of climate change. It means
that African governments will never invest in any meaningful development projects, as they
have to continuously attend to disasters resulting from climate change. More and more jobs
will be lost while our main source of livelihood, the environment will be depleted and
rendered useless for any meaningful development. However, I also believe, it might not be as
scary as we envision, mankind has over history developed means of adapting to severe
situations and this might just be another test to see if we can manage misgivings of our
actions. For example, developing alternative sources of energy as it is happening already in
developed countries and some other regions of the world. For example, Rwanda has the
biggest solar project in Africa so far. Some countries in North and East Africa have reduced
reliance on fossil fuel to bio-fuels, which is cleaner and less pollutive than using fossil fuels
for industrial use.

Michele: Having this in mind, do you thing there is a way of life, which leads us
towards sustainability? Do you think that people have responsibility for the environment?
Chadya: There are various strategies we can develop as individuals, groups or
organizations to create sustainable life styles. For example, water harvesting can be done at
both individual and organizational level. Trapping and harvesting run-off water is a
sustainable way of managing water. Also “climate proofing” all development projects because
failure to do so will mean that we basically unwinding all development progress made, now
and in the future. Also as highlighted above, finding alternative sources of energy that does
not pose a threat to climate such as solar and wind power. Governments and NGOs should
educate citizens about the dangers of unsustainable use of our natural resources and should
raise awareness in communities.
As we can see, from this conversation we can gather that the person is quite aware
of the problems. Both regarding the climate change itself, with statistics and data, and the
way it is politically and socially tackled.
It seems pretty obvious, that in areas of the planet where the climate change has a greater
and clearer repercussion, people are, of course, more concerned. Especially in the Sub-
Saharan Africa where agriculture is one of the main sources for national economy, people
are facing the consequences of climate change directly.

Interview       on       Thursday       12th       of       December       2013,       Czech       

“Dragons” is a little kids club near to Prague. After a regular meeting, some kids agreed to stay longer and talk about climate change. They took it as a fun topic to talk about
and it was sometimes impossible to stop them from being absurd or silly. Keeping the panel
interview structured was also hard. But in the end, the discussion brought out some very
interesting information.

Adam: My first question is about climate change. Do you know what this is about?
Can you feel or have you experienced any effects of climate change in your daily life?
Šaman: Climate change is a direct consequence of people’s behaviour in some areas.
For example in China nobody cares about climate change, they even spray chemicals to the
air to make a good weather for the Olympic games. Then they have to wear some cover over
their mouth, not to inhale polluted air. Airplanes are also a part of the problem. In order to fly
from Prague to NY, we burn more gas than one car in one whole year. Cars at least have
platinum catalysts.
Franta: Well, the temperature increases by 2-3 degrees every year as a result of
greenhouse gasses. But it can also be a result of alternating ice ages, and people have nothing
to do with that. I can clearly see that the weather is warmer, for example, we don’t have much
snow in the winter. But I agree that the mankind should reduce its carbon footprint. For
example take this situation. One Czech company, that produces matches, harvests the wood in
Czech republic, exports it in China where they actually create matches, and than export it
back to Czech republic. It doesn’t make sense.
Vítek: Climate change is a common word for phenomenon which causes that the snow
doesn`t fall in the winter. It is caused by high volume of heavy gases in the atmosphere, which
reflect the light back to the earth and stop it in the atmosphere. That is the cause of a
greenhouse effect.
Helča: We are told that the temperature is increasing, most probably as the result of
the greenhouse gasses, the CO2 and others. But what do we really know? Do we know how it
actually works? All we know it that it is very unpredictable. We cant even forecast the
weather accurately, or the tsunami. All I say is that regardless what we do; we cannot predict
anything that happens.

Adam: Thank you. I see, all of you heard about climate change and made their own
thoughts about it. Now, can you image how the world would be like in 20 years?
Šaman: There will be much more advanced technology, which will require more non-
ecological processes to function. The rise of developed countries will make the poor countries
even poorer. The developed countries are developing technology, with no real use for
developing countries. The technology does not solve their problems and doesn’t help. Thanks
to the advancement in medicine, we will have immortal pensioners putting much more
pressure on the social system. I wish that the countries would finally start working together to
solve common natural problems. The countries would have common currency and common
mission, to safe the planet earth.
Franta: That depends on, how quick are we going to run out of oil resources. That
could change everything. But it also depends on, if the people start go be interested in
ecology. The development of medicine will not help the people in poor countries because it
will be too expensive. The pills should be produced in developing countries and not imported,
I mean, we should teach them how to take care of them-selves, instead of selling them
expensive medicine.
Vítek: The population will increase by billions and the people will be less in contact
with the nature. But the third world war will reduce the number of people radically. Rolling
stones will be still playing. Ozzy Osbourne also.
Helča: The international conflict will be much deeper and they will eventually get to
some break point when the war comes, it is just a matter of time. The countries will have
different legislation regarding ecology, like we can see in China. I wish that Czech republic
would be among those who actually care. But I don’t think it is possible. Nobody cares here,
like people care for example in Norway.

Adam: Do you think society will change its way of life concerning this? How do you
think will people life in the future?
Šaman: The developed countries will already be ecological, but the developing
countries will not have sufficient wealth to afford it. All developing countries will act in the
way China acts. They will be more interested in becoming wealthier than in saving nature.
They will concentrate on fast growth rather than ecology. Apple will not sell license on their
Franta: The people will be much more lazy, dependent on technology and moving
just by car or any other device. The nature will be useless for those people, since they don’t
even know what to do in a nature environment. They will be all living in the big cities where
you have concrete everywhere.
Helča: The technology will replace handwork in almost every human activity. There
will be so many cities and so little nature that the people will have to start transforming cities
into fields.

It was a hugely surprising talk. The amount of information regarding climate
change which the kids absorb in school, TV, parents and magazines was unexpected. The
quantity of the information is just amazing, but what is even more shocking is the lack of a
positive thinking about the future. The youngsters seem to be already afraid of the future.


  These short interviews give an impression about how different young people conceive
climate change. It is shown from other studies that environment will be affected in greater
proportion in different areas of the planet. We can definitely deduce that people respond on
different levels: some on an emotional level, others – coming from different realities – on a
knowledgeable level. (Though, that might be only theoretical coming only from academically
studies). People living in developing countries (such as Zimbabwe, taken in the example)
have an immediate repercussion. But, they would not have enough power and the means to
promote ‚revolution‘. People in Europe at the moment are not threatened of being underfed.
Hence, they wouldn’t be concerned enough to respond actively. However, there are some
strong and interesting commons to be found in the interviews. First of all, every one of the
young girls and boys know more or less about climate change. Some of them do question its
causes. But, almost all of them are taken its effects seriously. Even the youngest participant
who does not really know which dimensions climate change reaches, wants at least people to
protect environment and to keep nature clear from pollution. Additionally a lot of interview
partners worried about problems that are not necessarily happening in their country of
residence. This shows on one hand that globalization and modern mobility made easier
information exchange as well as traveling or immigration. On the other hand, it demonstrates
that a lot of young people are aware of that local acting can cause global consequences –
especially concerning climate. It is quiet shocking how the young girls and boys are talking
about struggles concerning resources or other climate conflicts that will arise in the future.
They even consider a third world war to be possible. The youngsters seem to have a quite
serious view on the future, which sometimes even appears to come along with a feeling of
By connecting the different realities of young people, their strongest feelings,
arguments and visions can be transformed into action and behaviour change. To reach this
goal, a rational input in people is essential. But most important is getting them to be interested
in learning those points and to reflect their realities, behaviour and environment critically.
Concerning this, the responses shown in the interviews give hope for the future. By
taking these present and upcoming problems seriously and by having a global responsibility in
mind the next generation has strong change agents to implement a sustainable way of life in
our society. To achieve this, some new and (self-) critical kind of media could be used in
order to spark that emotional connection between humans and the subject of climate change.