Environment and children's everyday lives in India and England: Experiences, understandings and practices
KeywordsEnvironment, Environmental education, Narrative research, Children, Children's agency, Cross-national research, India
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AbstractIn the context of heightened global concerns about resource sustainability and ‘climate change’, children are often discursively positioned as the ‘next generation’ by environmentalists and policy makers concerned with addressing ‘climate change’ and environmental degradation. This positioning serves to present a moral case for action and to assign children a unique place in the creation of more sustainable societies. In this study I critically engage with the assumptions about children’s agency underlying such positioning by considering these assumptions in relation to children’s situated narratives of environment and everyday life. The children’s narratives were generated through multiple qualitative research activities carried out with twenty-six 11-15-year-old children living in a variety of contexts in India and England, as part of two wider research projects to which this study is linked, Family Lives and the Environment (part of NOVELLA – Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches) and Young Lives. The study treats country-level differences as one of a number of intersecting structural varieties alongside children’s socio-economic positioning and gender; an equal number of boys and girls living in rural and urban settings and from affluent and poorer families are included in both countries. Employing a narrative, case-based approach, the research examines the ways in which children exercised agency by presenting themselves as responsible individuals with considerable knowledge about environmental concerns, whilst often stressing their awareness of the limitations of what their own actions taken in response to these concerns could achieve. In contrast to policy framings which often accord responsibility to children to enact and influence ‘pro-environmental’ changes in the spaces of their everyday lives, children’s narratives point to the need for sustained multi-generational and institutionally-led action to tackle environmental degradation as it is now and as it may affect children and families in varied contexts in the future.