Characteristics of Generation Z Climate Activists-Dr. Gayle H Kimball

By Gayle H. Kimball, Ph.D.
California State University – Chico
(Brief executive summary of larger document.)
Academia | Letters

The power young people hold within us is invincible. It is we who together are going to solve this. Greta Thunberg

Over 50 girls and young women from 30 countries share how to save our planet from environmental destruction. They describe their activist tactics and personal stories as they shape the future, revealing regional issues and characteristics of Generation Z. The activists represent every inhabited continent and give first-person accounts. I interviewed them because they’re leading the climate movement and are courageously dedicated to stop climate change and destruction of our environment.

Our most urgent problem is the complex of the climate crisis, global warming, pollution, and environmental destruction. Everyone is impacted and must take action in the decade ahead or tipping points become irreversible, such as the thawing of Arctic permafrost and the Antarctic ice sheet, extinction of many species, and the loss of rainforests and coral reefs. Once reached, there will be no hope of remediation.1 We must reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) by 2050, which means cutting them in half by 2030. Humans, in our Anthropocene Epoch, have caused rapid warming in contrast to the previous Holocene Epoch where temperature didn’t vary more than a degree for over 12,000 years.

(L) Molly McGuire, Vice-President and (R) Gabby Arnold, President, 350-Stevens Point, a chapter of 350 whose officers are elected students of UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, WI and members of the Generation Z Dr. Kimbal is covering in this article. Shown starting the UW (Fossil Fuels) Divestment March to Chase Bank, Nov. 12, 2021 starting at UW-Stevens Point.

In contrast to the earlier climate led by people like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, the current climate movement leaders are much younger and the most prominent are girls like Greta Thunberg.2 They emphasize climate justice, referring to the harm the climate crisis does to disadvantaged people—including women. They use the word “intersectional” to point out that issues are interlaced, a reaction to the focus on the single issue of technology in the earlier environmental movement and sexism in the Second Wave of the women’s movement. They advocate system change, starting with government Green New Deals. However, Thunberg points out discussion of these green plans is dangerous if it implies necessary change can occur in the existing system.

The activists advocate replacing the consumption-driven growth economy model with a circular renewable economy that doesn’t waste. They angrily fault adults for not acting on the crisis and are afraid for their future. In every leadership group of youth climate organizations I’ve researched, the large majority are girls. I wrote about Gen Y activists in a series of books and wrote a book about how to be a changemaker, so it seemed a no-brainer to research Climate Girls Saving Our World. No other social issue is relevant if we destroy our environment and climate, and girls are leading the battle Because girls created most of the recent climate organizations like FFF (Fridays for Future), Youth for Future Africa, and Polluters Out, I interviewed 54 young women climate activists in 2019 and 2020, using snowball sampling as they recommended other girls around the world. I also contacted youth climate organizations for their nominations. I refer in this book to the interviewees as “our activists.” My initial letter and interview questions are on the global youth webpage.3 My intent was to learn about their tactics, how they organize, their goals, and what biographical factors led them to be courageous and dedicated changemakers. I wanted to know why they’re willing to give up their hobbies, sleep, and playtime for hours in meetings and demonstrations.

Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman asked, “Is the struggle for the environment the world’s greatest feminist movement? It challenges the structures and values that have created the crisis.” Is the future female, as Hillary Clinton predicted? Will this become the compassionate Sophia Century described by Lynne Twist?4 One of the Trumpian lessons was he made toxic alpha male masculinity a joke, mocked by teen girls on Tik-Tok who lipsynced like Sarah Silverman, by TV comedians, world leaders, the Dutch, etc.5 Although Generations Y and Z are criticized as apathetic and self-centered, their embrace of diversity and social justice proves otherwise. As the largest generation globally, they can elect and become progressive leaders who tackle the climate crisis.

What characterizes these climate activists? Our typical activist is first-born (two-thirds of them), optimistic, communicative, feminist, determined, passionate, and caring. She was motivated to take action either by well-known girl activists or by her parents. The most common career goal is to influence policy by working in government or an NGO (non-governmental organization). Our activists think women are the majority of climate activists because they are more compassionate and have a special connection with nature, they’re most harmed The activists recharge by being in nature and being with family and friends. They think Gen Z is powerful and the best hope for saving our world. They’re righteously angry at older generations for their destruction, but not their parents, who they find supportive, and they’re appreciative of adult climate disasters, and, because of sexism, they know they have to work hard to achieve their goals.

1Thomas Lenton et al., “Climate Tipping Points,” Nature, November 27, 2019.
2. See a video of her discussion with naturalist David Attenborough and the I am Greta documentary film on Hulu.
5 (teens) (Sarah Silverman) (Netherlands)

Academia Letters, March 2021 Corresponding Author: Gayle Kimball, Citation: Kimball, G. (2021). Characteristics of Generation Z Climate Activists. Academia Letters, Article 607.