Growing up with an impending sense of doom from the threat to our planet, younger generations feel a deep sense of urgency around the issue of climate change. In Movement Makers, Nick Engelfried recounts the history of youth-led climate activism in the 21st century.
Engelfried divides this history into three parts: first, he examines the most recent burst of youth-led activism that began in 2018; then he connects recent youth climate agitation to earlier generations of activists; and, finally, he looks at the effects of climate activism on policy and the larger zeitgeist.
The author introduces readers to a cast of admirable youth activists as young as 12 years old who become involved in strikes, advocating for the Green New Deal, or agitating for divestment from fossil fuels, and more. He skillfully brings to life youth-led aspects of the fight against tar sands extraction, fracking, and the Keystone XL pipeline.
He also speaks frankly of the political disappointments of events like The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in 2009; the Obama administration’s surprisingly muted response to climate change; and the major set-back of President Trump’s approval of fossil fuel infrastructure projects and withdrawal from the Paris Accords.
The author, once a youth activist himself, interviewed activists for this book like Jamie Margolin and Jihan Gearon, among others, and presents their stories. Written in the style of a podcast, the stories are rich in anecdotes and personalities. Stylistically, Engelfried’s writing is journalistic; he’s a storyteller rather than a theorist.
Still, the reader longs for a deeper synthesis of these anecdotes. The endless stories of young activists and their engagement with the climate crisis can become rather monotonous. If any broader theme emerges from these anecdotes, it’s the notion that climate activism is inseparable from wider social justice issues.
Nonetheless, Engelfried has written an important and well-turned work that will become a resource for future historians of our times – if we survive the current climate crisis.
Also available as an ebook.