The Narnia of Environmentalism

By Paul, Francis | Alternatives Journal, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

The Narnia of Environmentalism


Paul, Francis, Alternatives Journal


They open a door and enter a different world. Narnia ... the enchanted land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country encountered countless times in C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia." This is the place where children fought and won against the forces of evil. They routed the White Witch's army, created good laws, kept the peace, saved the good trees from being cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and satyrs from being sent to school.

The youth environmental movement is a modern Narnia tale. The political spaces opened by youth activism allow young people to thrive in their own milieu and to create unique tools of social change. By drawing attention to ageism, and fostering strategies such as youth-for-youth processes and intergenerational partnerships, youth use their age as a source of strength. In their own land beyond the wardrobe, young people play a heroic role in rescuing the world.

Working with adults in mainstream organizations is usually a much different reality. There, our contributions are marginalized and our sense of accomplishment and purpose is far less heroic. Young people are usually relegated to stuffing the envelopes and painting the banners, but are excluded from the decisions that affect the movement's direction and strategies.

Across Canada, youth's involvement in Public Interest Research Groups is a modern Narnia tale, one where youth activists have been able to define their own political space for social change. In this special issue of Alternatives, Peter Cameron and Karen Farbridge argue that over the past 25 years these university-based groups for environmental and social-justice have created their own youth culture with a unique set of social change tools.

In Eastern Canada, Omer Chouinard, Diane Pruneau and Charline Arsenault found an alternative way for young and old to interact on environmental issues. Their experiment with school children and retirees in Cap Pele, NB, showed that in a context of mutual respect, collective environmental action can lead to a deeper appreciation for nature and a greater commitment to protect it from harm. …

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