Give Young People a Voice!

recent survey among 500 Austrian teenagers (aged 14-18 years) on environmental and social sustainability once again showed that particularly in times of crisis we have to offer opportunities for participation and decision-making to young people who want to create a fair and sustainable future for themselves.

Responsible decision-maker cannot longer ignore those who have the biggest interest in a sustainable future. Because especially young people who are used to living in a globalized world and facing the threats of climate change and inequality can pave the way for the necessary social and economic changes.

According to the survey, more than three out of four teenagers are concerned about the state of the world 20 years from now. But there’s hope: More than two thirds of the survey respondents see climate change, poverty and food, water and resources shortages as their biggest challenges.

Half of the respondents believe that collective action can have an impact and three out of four respondents want to see young people from all countries to participate in finding solutions to these challenges. Moreover, a third of Austrian teenagers already engage in social or environmental volunteer work and half of the other respondents think about doing so in the future.

Our mission is clear: More than 80% of young Austrians think that politicians and businesses should be more concerned about young people and global problems. But they not only expect solutions but they also volunteer, change their lifestyles and show interest in information about global challenges. Education also plays a major role here as three out of four adolescents demand much more information on global problems and our responsibility in their schools.

So, our challenge is to guarantee that climate change and other major challenges don’t result in generational conflicts, especially as we’re seeing high youth unemployment, social tensions and a lot of disorientation in today’s society. It is of utmost importance to allow young people to take control of their own future.

Decision-makers therefore have to approach young people, listen to their experiences, care about their problems and ask for their recommendations. Politicians have to give them more opportunities to participate in decision-making processes in their own environments. And society as a whole has to appreciate volunteer work even more.

We have to foster consciousness for climate change, inequality and other global challenges. We have to demand that economic stimulus investments are directed towards meaningful purposes such as education, healthcare and green jobs instead of prolonging the status quo. And so on…

As Gandhi one said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I am glad that I have met so many young, skilled and motivated people in the past months who want to bring such positive change to the world. It is our generation that is longing for change and ready to act and contribute.

It is us who demand sustainable development, opportunities to participate and responsibility. Because we do not want conflicts between generations but broad cooperation on common, future-proof solutions!

Posted on August 21, 2009 in Democracy

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

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