Youth In Times of Uncertainty

An Age of Uncertainty - Working with Young People in precarious times

On Youth and Future Generations Day (10 November), our third intercultural morning coffee tackled how it feels to be growing up in an age of uncertainty, how connecting with nature can alleviate anxiety; and how when we disconnect from nature, this can lead to a disconnect with caring about the environment, our community and society as a whole. We talked about the importance of embracing uncertainty and developing intellectual, emotional and community resilience. How we can learn from young people if we are to find new, more hopeful futures in the face of uncertainty.

Our speaker, educationalist, researcher and author of “Nature based Learning” 2022, Dr. Alexia Barrable works at the intersection of psychology, environmental science and education and spoke about her interest in the promotion of mental health and wellbeing through interactions with the natural world. She talked about the importance of nature connectiveness especially for those living in urban surroundings, and also the “disconnect” which occurs in adolescence, which she is currently researching.  

Of particular concern were the disenfranchised males 16-24 years often outside education or the job market with limited access to nature & for the most part voting extreme far-right.

We also discussed the vital role of the school as a democratic space/hub for reflection on existential issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics, job instability, war etc. and for developing youth agency. Education's role in developing resilience, as the problems we face are not going to be solved overnight.

Dr Rebecca Webb from Sussex University, was able to give us concrete examples of work she is doing to prepare students for an uncertain world.  https://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/58358

She talked about the importance of co-constructing inclusive and locally relevant sustainability curricula in schools across the world.

But is anyone listening? We asked the Morning Coffee participants how they envisage the world in 20 years’ time and we received very mixed views. Hope came from young people and new ways of seeing and the ability to reimagine the world with fresh eyes, and learn from nature itself. However, concern was voiced that the appointment of young leaders was often a tokenistic gesture, and did not come with the necessary power to bring about real systemic change.

The Morning Coffee is moderated by Denise L Mellion, River of Light (Gothenburg) and ALF Swedish network advisory committee member.

Alexia Barrable (University of Dundee, Scotland)

Alexia Barrable is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Social Work at University of Dundee. She works at the intersection of psychology and education, and in particular with outdoor learning and the human-nature interactions in educational settings and beyond. She is currently exploring how different experiences and pedagogical approaches can promote (or hinder) nature connectedness in children. She is also interested in the promotion of mental health and wellbeing across the life span, through interactions with the natural world.  

Note: unfortunately, the other speakers Sanda Tcacencu (Urban Planer, Sweden) and Mostafa Habib (VeryNile, Egypt) were not able to join us. 

More information, please contact the Swedish network coordinator Rasha Shaaban 

Organised thanks to the support of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the ALF Swedish network