Youth sociology will inevitably and increasingly be sociology of social change, a sociology of the future, and concern for the environment, according to Australian scholar Rob White.[i] Everyone is impacted by climate change, which White reminds us is the most pressing issue facing the world. It will influence youth identities such as becoming stigmatized migrants or hopeless victims due to climate change in the Global South, youth transitions to adulthood such as the possibility of working in new green-collar jobs, and youth subcultures such as youth organizing against environmental degradation by the wealthy. White points out that recent sociology of youth points out that youth identity is complex, malleable, multiple and hybrid. The news may focus on youth in terms of “moral panic” as they migrate to safer lands because the “criminality of youth is touted as a major social problem.”
In developed countries like Australia studies show that young people care about the environment but many feel helpless about being changemakers, undermining belief in their social identity as activists. Youth identities are being shaped by global extremes between poverty and natural disasters in contrast to. media coverage of wealthy celebrities and instant gratification as when the young Indian hero of the film Slumdog Millionaire rises from enslavement to the wealth that comes from winning a TV game show. And of course their local community, family, friends, etc shape youth identity. White concludes, “Globalization is inherent and central to all these problems. This means a return to the grand old days of sociology, when the totality of humanity was explicitly of concern.” Scholars ignore climate change at our peril.
[i] Rob White. Climate Change, Uncertain Futures and the Socioloy of Youth. Youth Studies Australia. Vol. 30, No. 3, 2011.