Watching Youth Climate Resistance Spread

Late last week, Greta Thunberg arrived in the US to participate in the events around Climate Week that will coincide with climate-related meetings at the United Nations on 23-29 September. Before the festivities get underway, a whole week of climate resistance is scheduled, including the #GlobalClimateStrike on 20th September.  The Strike is expected to draw both adult and student participants around the world.

Two days after her arrival, Thunberg and her many compatriots held a school strike at the UN on Friday–for the first time striking together in the same place (although many people participated in school strikes around the US and the world on Friday as well!).   As many readers know, I have been studying the climate movement and how it is related to the Resistance since 2016 (see chapter 5 in this volume for an early account).

After writing this recent piece about the broader importance of the growing school strikes –which organizers like Thunberg call “Fridays for Future”–I started studying the participants in the youth climate movement in the US and abroad.  I found that many of the young people participating in the US had cut their teeth in the Resistance, participating in Women’s Marches or activism around gun violence, including the National School Strike and March for Our Lives in 2018.

The project also looks at how all the young people participating are connected through organizations, which I call “the connective tissue of democracy” (American Resistance, page 63).  Here is a network diagram of the affiliation of participants in the youth climate movement in the US showing how individuals are connected with organizations (green nodes) and specific hashtags (pink nodes).  Although Fridays for Future and Sunrise have gotten a lot of attention in recent months, this diagram provides a broader sense of the organizational landscape and the ways that individuals are connected to specific organizations and one another.