Children of the market? The impact of neoliberalism on children's attitudes to climate change.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines the relationship between young children's emerging political attitudes towards climate change and the possible effect that the political project of neoliberalism could have on these attitudes. The research asks, in what ways and to what extent do neoliberal attitudes and beliefs influence young New Zealand children's views on climate change mitigation? Drawing from five focus group interviews with Christchurch children aged between 9 and 11, I compare and contrast the results in order to gauge their opinions, thoughts and beliefs about climate change. In doing this I ask how neoliberalism formed in New Zealand and if the neoliberal project has become so dominant in the macro and micro level policy contexts as to influence the attitudes of our youngest citizens. What the thesis argues is that neoliberal discourse appears to have influenced how the participants view climate change, most specifically in their willingness to select individualized mitigation techniques to respond to climate change as opposed to collective actions. These findings are tentative, they require a robust larger sample, beyond the scope of a masters, and may be influenced by other factors such as the developmental stage of the children, however, the emphasis all children placed on voluntary action by individuals was striking. My findings also suggest that those who selected these individual mitigation techniques were more likely to have higher efficacy than those who were critical of such practices. The thesis argues that individualized techniques to combat climate change are by themselves not effective to bring about significant change in order to alleviate further damage being caused to the climate system. In order to reach Helen Clark's goal of being "the world's first truly sustainable nation," collective, as well as individual mitigation must occur.