"Young Entitled Eco-Warriors": Tensions between structural and personal responses to climate change

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper explores the tensions between individual and structural approaches to combating climate change, and how this tension has developed over time, drawing on preliminary research with WISERD into the relationship between energy transitions, activism and civil society, as well as my own PhD research into histories of the countercultural movement. This discussion will be centred around a tweet (the ‘object’, fig 1) from November 2021, which was collected as part of our initial research. This tweet expresses the belief that the recent past was more eco-friendly than today, and that young climate activists are hypocritical because they (apparently) shun these lifestyle choices. Tweets like this were fairly common during COP26 (and outside it) and fit into a broader discourse of intergenerational conflict across social media. This paper unpicks the prejudices and misconceptions encapsulated by this tweet, looking at how they originated from earlier conceptions of environmentalism and environmental action. Many of the habits identified do not directly cause climate change, and a return to the recent past would certainly not resolve climate change (far from it). Although, as Brownstein et al (2021) points out, drawing a stark line between individual and structural changes can be unhelpful, our initial research suggests that there is still a clear contrast between the kind of individual action many people believe will combat climate change, and the structural changes that are needed to actually combat climate change. This paper discusses how this disconnect came about, and what could be done about it.
Period29 Apr 2022
Event title'It's Not Climate Change - It's Everything Change': Early Career Researcher Symposium
Event typeConference
LocationNewcastle, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Climate Change
  • activism
  • social media