Original Research

Lost in translation? Religious elements and concepts in youth climate movements

Geke van Vliet, Jacques W. Beukes
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2876 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2876 | © 2023 Geke van Vliet, Jacques W. Beukes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 April 2023 | Published: 14 November 2023

About the author(s)

Geke van Vliet, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Jacques W. Beukes, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Climate change represents the most significant challenge facing the global community. The issue in question has an impact on the younger generation, whose prospects may be jeopardised. Both younger and older generations are participating in climate movements. An illustrious instance is the School Strike for Climate, which was orchestrated by the adolescent environmentalist, Greta Thunberg. The climate movements exhibit a range of objectives, actions and focus. Various social movements construct narratives that appeal to the youth demographic. The presence of a coherent narrative aids in the formation of personal identity and the establishment of a shared sense of self among individuals. Collectively, they have the potential to advocate for equitable treatment of the environment. Climate activism, although not regarded as religious, employs religious language and concepts. Research examining the climate movements’ impact on churches has revealed the presence of religious effects. Upon conducting research on the involvement of young individuals in churches and climate movements, specifically with regard to their agency, it has been observed that climate movements are fundamentally grounded in religious language and ideals. This article analyses the religious concepts found within youth climate movements and further investigates the correlation between youth climate activism and religion through the analysis of religious rhetoric.

Interdisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary nature of this contribution is spread across the fields of theology and religion. The sub-disciplines of the youth in general, youth ministry and youth work, religious rhetoric, climate change, climate justice and environmental consciousness within the academic discourse of sustainability are studied.


religious elements; religious concepts; climate change; climate movements, apocalypticism and eschatology; utopias; hope; cathedral thinking.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 13: Climate action


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