The Last Generation?
The dissoier explores the phenomenon of the “Last Generation” (German: Letzte Generation), a new radical climate justice movement that organized hunger strikes in front of the German Bundestag to raise awarness about the climate crisis before the Federal Election 202. Why would young people starve to live? What can game theory teach us about hunger strikes? What’s the role of age and intergenerational conflict therein? I argue that, albeit an established cultural form for seeking justice since the 20th century, the hunger strike of the “last Generation” represents a novum in the history of environmental activism: Never before have young people resorted to such drastic means to voice their concerns. The case is no symptom of youthful frivolity nor ideological radicalization but a predictable eruption from the long-ignored pressure tank of climate anxiety and eco-grief among Germany’s youth, laying open an institutionalized underrepresentation of adolescent perspectives in modern democracies. Growing up knowing that their future hinges on a planet under threat, this generation is more receptive to signals of ecological degradation than any generation before it. The embodied capacity to sense, listen, and anticipate changes in the Earth system will be key to designing political institutions that reflect humanity’s deep-seated interdependence with the more-than-human world. Unless democracies find ways to better represent their “seismographic” youth, we will continue to see more hunger strikes in the near-time future.
December 10, 2021