I became aware of the action to protect the old growth watershed at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) in the autumn of 2020. I followed the protest from a distance for several months before I was able to visit the blockade. Despite my drive to join the action, with a full-time job to return to, I struggled to find ways to support the blockade without the sustained ability to participate on site.
The purpose of this work is to inform innovative intervention in climate activism by vitalising youth participation in conservation initiatives. The impact of improved engagement strategies may promote a healthier future for dwellers of planet Earth.
Recent studies show that climate change is a top 5 priority for youth (aged 15-30) in so-called Canada, and 79% of youth believe they are the most capable change-makers, citing businesses and governments as inadequate players in combating climate change.1 However, apathy associated with inaccessibility is considered a key barrier to youth-led climate action.2
How might we empower youth in so-called Canada to engage with climate action in their communities in order to drive youth-led, impact-oriented solutions for local conservation efforts?
A review of recent literature pertaining to youth climate action engagement in so-called Canada was performed. The following are key takeaways from existing studies to inform the problem space.
Climate change is a top 5 issue for youth in so-called Canada. 55% of youth report being interested, upset, and alert to climate issues and 51% centered their voting decision in the 2021 election on platforms addressing the climate crisis.1
Youth are donating a greater proportion of their charitable donations (5.2%) to environmental organizations than older adults and seniors (2.5%). They are also committing more of their time to volunteering to these groups than their elders.3
A recent study indicates that youth don’t feel like they are respected by older adults in their climate work, citing a lack of support and trust. This dynamic has caused youth to lose interest in and disengage from climate action initiatives.2
Globally, youth are doing their part on an individual basis to address the climate crisis. 90% of youth report taking action through behaviours like second hand purchasing as well as future intentions like increasing civic engagement.4
I conducted interviews with five people belonging to the primary stakeholder group, selected based on the criteria that they were between the ages of 18-30, were interested in climate action, and were living in so-called Canada as their primary place of residence at the time of the interview.
Youth are not only tired of the depressing narrative associated with climate action, they don’t identify with it. All of the youth interviewed associated climate action with hardcore activism that does not resonate with them. These individuals expressed feeling overwhelmed and insignificant in the face of the doom narrative that continues to prevail in this space.
“I think there's a really interesting reignition of that hope narrative, and if that's a central role of the platform that would draw me a lot more to it”
Youth engagement needs to be on their terms and in tangible, approachable applications. Preachiness and exclusivity are cited as a major turn-off for these youth who have a desire to participate in groups that are non-judgemental and supportive. In addition, youth want to see their impact on a community level; global reach is seen as overwhelming.
“it has to do with inclusivity and how they involve you, making it more of a learning experience for people rather than preachy or ... exclusive”
Most of the information consumed by the youth interviewed comes from social media platforms, for which these youth express wariness regarding the trustworthiness of their sources. They admit a lack of knowledge on the topic and don’t follow social accounts specific to climate action, as they are uncertain about the reliability of these sources.
“I feel like a small person in a huge world, that it's like, I really don't know if we can actually change anything.”
22 Years Old || Student || The Every[person]
“I want to do my part to curb the climate crisis, but I feel overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start”
Jade is an undergraduate student who likes to unwind by hiking the local forest trails after class, where she has developed a strong affinity for natural places. She is aware of the climate crisis and sees a lot of content on social media about “the end of the world” that makes her feel insignificant and concerned.
She tries to recycle and bring totes to the grocery store, but doesn’t think this really makes a difference. Her friends and family are the same, so she doesn’t feel like she has a community to work on climate projects with, and isn’t interested in protesting or getting involved in hardcore activism, so she feels unfulfilled in her efforts and ability to participate.
Finding like-minded folks to collaborate with on climate action in her free time
Feeling misaligned with hardcore activism and protests that flood her social feed
A non-judgemental community where she can see the direct impact of her efforts
Jade is walking on her favourite trail when she remembers hearing about green spaces under threat of development in her city. She loves her forest walks and decides to get involved in protecting the local trails.
Jade's goal is to connect with local community members who are working to protect the trails in order to assist their conservation efforts.
User stories were crafted based on the research and proposed persona in order to gain a better understanding of the audience mindset and to identify key themes, referred to herein as “epics”. The task flow represents how the primary task & product function will be realized in the solution.
As a youth activist, I want to find action that aligns with my skills and interests in order to give more than just money
As a youth activist, I want to sign up for initiatives in my community in order to witness the positive impact of my efforts
As a youth activist, I want to share my impact with my friends and following in order to inspire others to get involved
User searches for relevant volunteer opportunities, signs up to join an initiative, and shares the initiative with their network
I drafted a series of rough sketches to brainstorm, organize, and ultimately form a first round of solution wireframes, bringing together the most compelling aspects of ui inspiration exploration.
I conducted usability testing in two rounds with five users each in order to collect practical, real-time feedback in order to provide a more optimal user experience.
The "dashboard" screen underwent the most significant changes to the app ui, as noted in the scheme here.
Keeping the primary audience in mind, I explored a mood that would appeal to trending Gen Z notions of escapism and tension between optimism and apathy in a neo-brutalist style.
Resultant from a brainstorming session, I landed on the name "ok planet" as it is reflective of the apathetic optimism that was discovered in the strategy portion of this work.
The wordmark was created with inspiration from the colours and neo-brutalist forms in the mood.
This palette was derived from the moodboard and expanded upon in order to created colour variations for backgrounds and states for the brand colours, system colours, and neutrals. The palette includes WCAG accessibility requirements to assist in colour injection with accessibility in mind.
The brand was injected into the wireframes to create the final iteration of the app look & feel and ui interactions. Primary screens are pictured here complete with the branded UI system.
Passion projects are so rewarding because of the inherent motivation to learn as much as possible throughout the process. I was privileged to connect with so many youth and hear their perspectives on climate action, which has both heartened me and lit a fire to continue this type of work.
This academic project has reached completion, however, the learnings, especially from the research and strategy portions of the project, remain with me as I continue the journey of facilitating climate action through digital design outside of the classroom.