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Understanding Youth Carbon Cultures


David Rousell, Anna Hickey-Moody


Dr Jordan Lacy, Dr Kelly Hussey-Smith Professor David Forrest, Mira Thurner, Sophie Hartley, Imelda Cooney, Michele Stockley, and Elizabeth Gage

Rapid Response Living Lab: Understanding Youth Carbon Cultures

Co-investigators: Anna Hickey-Moody and David Rousell

Our living lab set out to develop the concept of carbon cultures as a pathway to climate literacy for young people who are disengaged and excluded by environmentalist discourses about climate change. Directly addressing UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education), Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and Goal 13 (Climate Action), we aimed to generate new understandings of young people’s attachments to carbon with a focus on those living in rural, migrant, and urban fringe communities with a high dependence on carbon heavy industries. A key outcome is an interactive website for generating more inclusive conversations about youth carbon cultures and climate justice: Our approach involved multimodal interviews with young people who are actively involved in carbon heavy motorsports, such as dirt bike racing and custom car cultures. Provisional results of our study indicate that young people develop strong affective attachments to carbon from a very young age, and that these attachments are intricately entangled with cultural and material markers of class, gender, race, geography, and identity. Our data shows how carbon operates as a constitutive element in young people becoming who they are (Figure 1), but that rural young people often feel blamed for being who they are by urban environmentalist discourses on climate change. This demonstrates how social and economic class as well as urban / rural divides construct significant barriers to engagement with climate change and the transition to decarbonised energy systems. Our living lab foregrounds the urgency of creating more pluralistic approaches to climate justice which are sensitive to young people’s diversely situated carbon attachments and dependencies. To explore possible ways forward along these lines, we collaborated with contemporary artists Meg de Young (Figure 2) and Zoe Scoglio (Figure 3) whose work engages with carbon heavy ‘automobility’ cultures as critical sites of affective belonging and social cohesion.

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