Youth engagement with climate change and well-being: a study of Dutch and South African university students
El Zoghbi, Mona B.
This doctoral study investigates the different forms, levels, and pathways of youth engagement with climate change and the implications for the well-being of youth in different contexts of vulnerability and adaptability. It aims to understand such engagement through the accounts and interactions of youth themselves and within their own environmental, socio-cultural, and political context, thereby contributing a holistic understanding of youth engagement in specific countries, an area under-researched in current literature.\ud cultural stereotypes, and socio-political worldviews and structures; b) the need for enhancing young people's skills and prospects for future employment and welfare within an increasingly interconnected, technologically-driven, and sustainability-oriented workplace, through incorporating more critical, futures-oriented, and inter-disciplinary pedagogies of education and learning for sustainability within the higher education curriculum; c) the importance of academic and socio-political spaces and opportunities that foster critical reflection, interpersonal interaction, and collective action in strengthening young people's influence for change and their subjective and social well-being; and d) the need for more critical and empowering platforms and pathways that promote meaningful youth engagement and conscious power-sharing amongst youth and other stakeholders in society. Key recommendations emphasize multi-stakeholder partnerships with youth across political, academic, medical, civic and corporate spectrums to empower young people, especially higher education youth, to meaningfully contribute to future educational, developmental, and health agendas and strategies.\ud The study aligns its conceptual and methodological rationale through applying a critical interpretivist research approach which ensures an analytical, contextual, and in-depth understanding of such engagement in different countries. It is conducted in the Netherlands and South Africa, which historically have had distinct vulnerabilities and approaches to climate change and diverse pathways for youth engagement. Particular emphasis is placed on higher education youth who constitute the future leaders, informed decision makers, and active and innovative agents of society.\ud Fieldwork was undertaken throughout 2011, coinciding with the International Year of Youth and the COP17 international climate change conference. In each country, focus groups were conducted with university and college students from diverse socio-demographic and academic backgrounds. These focus groups sought depth and meaning through critical reflection, futures thinking, and a profound and interactive dialogic process. Qualitative interviews investigated more in-depth the emerging themes; whereas participant-observation, meetings with key informants, and document review promoted a comprehensive and valid understanding of the context in which such engagement is taking place.\ud Key findings reveal: a) the contextual power differentials that strongly shape youth efficacy and agency, especially personal demographic and academic backgrounds,