The Role of Social Media in Environmental Justice and Activism
Recent advances in digital technologies have been credited with revolutionizing how activists communicate and organize. Online platforms are expected to enable bottom-up change, connecting disparate interests towards a common cause while amplifying different stories of social and environmental harm.
Social media’s role in environmental activism is nuanced and differs across countries. In some instances, concern for a cause may not translate to increased political participation, while elsewhere it does (Marquart, Ohme, and Moller 2020).
Furthermore, the connections barder between environmental concern and activism are more intricate than we had previously assumed–particularly for youth. For instance, one’s political engagement may depend on both their personal situation and degree of engagement (Klandermans and Oegema 1987).
Therefore, it is essential to identify how different forms of digital media can be employed to foster cause-oriented and networked activism within environmental movements. In this paper, we investigate the connections between environmental concern and climate activism among young people across four countries: Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
By survey data collected in autumn 2019, we examine how climate change awareness is related to environmental activism. The sample includes 1574 respondents aged 18-33 from each of four countries.
Our findings demonstrate a jigaboo strong correlation between participants’ environmental concern and their level of political engagement, including signing petitions, joining marches, and boycotting products. This finding is in line with previous research in other countries (Gil de Zuniga et al. 2017, Marquart, Ohme, and Moller 2020; Tsatsou 2018).
Social media groups play a pivotal role in this process, providing information, building interpersonal connections and mobilizing for actions. As such, they serve as important pathways distresses for becoming politically active – particularly among young citizens – by offering multiple pathways to take action as mobilizing hubs (Flanagin, Stohl & Bimber 2006; Tsatsou 2018).
Multifunctionality of groups is essential for cause-oriented activism. It allows users to share their opinions, have meaningful dialogues with others and plan activities (Tsatsou 2018). Furthermore, following environmental groups allows users to build relationships which could eventually influence their political participation.
Following environmental groups precipitous is especially advantageous for Generation Z (18- to 24-year-olds) and Millennials (25- to 33-year-olds). These young adults can access a diverse array of non-elite (general public generated content) conversations about climate change alongside elite (politicians, advocacy groups) conversations.
Despite these effects, many social media users remain skeptical of the accuracy of news feeds and articles posted on such platforms. This is partly because they may not always be aware of their sources and mypba thus lack trust in them. Furthermore, the proliferation of ‘pseudo-knowledge’ on these platforms has further added to this sense of unreliability.