An explorative study of young people's ecological citizenship in Durban, South Africa.
In the context of growing concern for the potential impact of climate change, climate governance mechanisms are employed by nation states aiming to influence environmental actions of various actors. Promoting green behaviour of individual citizens is one of the current climate governance approaches. Furthermore, increasing attention is given towards the younger generations, as they will have to bear the consequences of climate change. Empowering young people to act against climate change is, therefore, important. This study aims to explore whether ecological citizenship among young people in Durban, South Africa, could be a valuable component of climate governance. It will do so by: 1) exploring how young people conceptualise climate change, 2) how they understand and experience citizenship, 3) whether they possess features of ecological citizenship. This research consists of a qualitative study based on semi-‐structured interviews with eighteen young individuals. The conceptual tools of practice theory and citizenship, that incorporate aspects of ecology and youth, are utilised for understanding the empirical study. The findings suggest that young people in Durban have a vague understanding of climate change-‐related concepts. Furthermore, it shows a gap between the understanding and the experience of citizenship. The youth comprehend citizenship with its features of rights and obligations; however, their experience of citizenship is largely dominated by detachment from politics, a sense of exclusion, and a lack of authentic opportunities to play out citizenship activities. Lastly, everyday practices of young people reveal a limited range of environmentally friendly actions accompanied by a moderate sense of agency in relation to environmental problems. This study shows that in order for young people to be able to act as ecological citizens, there are several structural constraints that need to be transformed into opportunities. This research suggests that there is a need to: 1) enable citizenship options for young people, 2) establish practical alternatives for sustainable behaviour. This study argues that providing such structural opportunities has the potential to develop young citizens that can act in an environmentally friendly way, without providing any guarantee for green behaviour. However, the potential for such behaviour is nevertheless greater with structural opportunities, rather than constrains.