Living in denial: climate change, emotions, and everyday life.
- Mingxin Guo
- Journal of environmental quality
AIMS This study explored the concerns and contributions of university students in response to the ethical dimensions of climate change, and the implications for their well-being. The study focused on university students as leaders of future society while facing complex environmental and socio-economic challenges. METHODS A total of 8 focus groups (FG) were conducted (66 participants from over 10 different universities across The Netherlands). In addition, 9 in-depth interviews with Dutch university students from different academic backgrounds, and 16 interviews with Dutch key informants in the environment, youth and public health fields were undertaken. The first author also attended (as participant-observer) three major events themed around youth and environmental issues across different regions in The Netherlands. RESULTS University students in the Netherlands are mostly concerned about the increasing social and economic inequalities between the global North and South, and the implications for impoverished and uneducated communities. Participants raised concerns over the transfer of materialistic value systems and unsustainable practices from developed to developing countries. The participants' main contributions in response to climate change were largely driven by feelings of guilt and responsibility, an ecological worldview, and desire to play a positive role in society. CONCLUSION Establishing formal youth platforms across academic, civic and political institutions could provide legitimate and empowering opportunities for university students to participate in consultations and debates of future environmental policies and development strategies. Such platforms could enhance the agency and well-being of university students for addressing their concerns over existing climate inequalities and other ethical dilemmas.