Eco-Rebels with a Cause: Representations and Explorations of Politics and Activism in Children's and YA Literature

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 November 2024 | Viewed by 905

Special Issue Editors

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Language, Literature, Mathematics and Interpreting, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Interests: ecocriticism literature; children's literature

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Language, Literature, Mathematics and Interpreting, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Interests: literature and ethics; ecocriticism; cultural plant studies; videogame aesthetics; reading research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Among children and adolescents all over the world today and reflected in recent environmental-oriented children's and YA literature, we see a growing commitment to rebellion and protest. This focus is combined with attention to how children and young adults may be heard in ecological, social, ethical, and economic matters that concern them (Nairn, 2019; Wahlström et al., 2020; Haugseth & Smeplass, 2023).

In his recent book on ecology and economy in the time of capitalism, human geographer Ståle Holgersen (2022) claims that the climate crisis should be analyzed as a political crisis, since ecology is far too important to be left only to people who “love nature” (p. 10). Despite the agreement enshrined in the COP23 declaration to phase out fossil fuel emissions, continued political acceptance of the capitalist exploitation of human and natural resources remains an obstacle to be overcome. Arguably, the comprehensive action required to mitigate and end the global ecological crisis is still overall lacking. In Norway, the leader of the Norwegian Young Conservatives recently declared the Greta Thunberg generation “dead”, when explaining the success of the conservative party at the local government elections in the fall of 2023 (Berglund, 2023). In doing so, he not only mocked young people’s environmental engagement, but also demonstrated that he is out of step with the scientific description of global realities, thus jeopardizing the future of children and adolescents.

In young adult literature, genres that are inherently political, such as utopian and dystopian writing, have enjoyed sustained popularity in the past few decades, problematizing current political responses to issues like the climate crisis, species extinction, and biotechnology, while promoting various types of “eco-rebels” and differing forms of eco-rebellion (see for instance Hintz & Ostry, 2003; Bradford et al., 2008; Basu et al. 2013; Curry, 2013; Day et al. 2014). Notable examples of such problematizing works for young adults are Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series (2005-2007), Saci Loyd’s The Carbon Diaries (2015, 2017), and The Marrow Thieves (2017) by Cherie Dimaline.

We also see representations and explorations of (rebellious) activism in other types of texts addressing children and young adults (June & Abadia, 2023; Dåsnes, 2022; Hopkinson & Meilo, 2020; Amoore, 2020). While not all of these directly target environmental topics, postcolonial, feminist, and racial topics are often also related to the same power mechanisms that sustain the environmental crisis (McDonough & Wagner, 2014; Deszcz-Tryhubczak, 2023). In addition to fiction (picture books as well as novels), a growing number of biographies depicting activist life, in particular the life of Greta Thunberg, have recently been published and studied (Moriarty, 2021; Martínez García, 2020).

In this Special Issue of Humanities, we understand children's and YA literature as an aesthetic and ethical laboratory and thus as a cultural form of expression where different readers can meet and explore representations of climate and environmental politics and activism, not necessarily to be directed towards a specific ideology, response, or action, but to gain the experience of being taken seriously as critical, reflective, and political beings.

Motivated by the right of children and young adults to express and organize themselves and be heard in issues concerning them (see UNICEF), and by children’s and young adults’ involvement in the world today, we are calling for papers to the Special Issue Eco-Rebels with a Cause. Such a call is in line with tendencies in current children's and YA literature, where representations and explorations of politics and activism abound. The aim of the call is to explore, ethically and aesthetically, new literary ways of foregrounding connections between environmental and political justice reaching across ideological, species, and scalar boundaries.

Hence, we invite articles relating to politics and activism in children's and YA literature. Topics, theories, and methods may include—but are not strictly limited to—the following:

  • Characteristics of and/or differences between literary eco-icons and eco-rebels;
  • Eco-rebel biographies or portraits;
  • Eco-rebels in dystopian/utopian YA literature;
  • Visual and/or interactive representations of eco-rebels in picture books, graphic novels, and literary video games;
  • The role of affects in eco-rebel children’s and YA literature;
  • Climate justice and/or social justice in eco-rebel children’s and YA literature;
  • Theoretical and methodological reflections on how children’s and YA literature may enable critical and collaborative thinking and activism;
  • Activist reading as a method of analyzing political and environmental aspects of children’s and YA literature (both classic and contemporary literary texts).


Amoore, N. (2020). The power of positive pranking. Penguin.

Basu, B., Broad, K. R. & Hintz, C. (2013). Contemporary dystopian fiction for young adults: Brave new teenagers. Routledge.

Berglund, N. (2023, September 6). Traditional school elections took a turn to the right. Available online:

Bradford, C., Mallan, K. Stephens, J. & McCallum, R. (2008). New world orders in contemporary children's literature. Utopian transformations. Palgrave Macmillan.

Curry, A. (2013). Environmental crisis in young adult fiction. A poetics of earth. Palgrave Macmillan.

Day, S. K., Green-Barteet, M. A. & Montz, A. L. (2014). Female rebellion in young adult dystopian fiction. Routledge.

Deszcz-Tryhubczak, J. (2023). Research with children, weeds, and a book: An after-childhood perspective. In J. Deszcz-Tryhubczak & M. García-González (Eds.). Children's Cultures after Childhood (pp. 122-136). John Benjamins.

Dåsnes, N. (2022). La skogen Leve! Aschehoug.

Haugseth, J. F. & Smeplass, E. (2023). The Greta Thunberg Effect: A Study of Norwegian Youth’s Reflexivity on Climate Change. Sociology (Oxford), 57(4), 921–939.

Hintz, C. & Ostry, E. (Eds.) (2003). Utopian and dystopian writing for children and young adults. Routledge.

Holgersen, S. (2022). Krisernas tid: Ekologi och ekonomi under kapitalismen. Bokförlaget Daidalos.

Hopkinson, D. & Meilo S. (2020). Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

June, R. & Abadia, X. (2022). People Power. Protestas que han cambiado el mundo. Zahori.

Martínez García, A. B. (2020). Constructing an activist self: Greta Thunbergʼs climate activism as life writing. Prose Studies, 1–18.

McDonough, M. & Wagner, K. A. (2014) Rebellious Natures: The Role of Nature in Young Adult Dystopian Female Protagonists’ Awakenings and Agency. In S. K. Day, M. A. Green-Barteet & A. L. Montz, A. L. (Eds.). Female rebellion in young adult dystopian fiction. Routledge.

Moriarty, S. (2021). Modeling Environmental Heroes in Literature for Children: Stories of Youth Climate activist Greta Thunberg. The Lion and the Unicorn 45(2), 192-210.

Nairn, K. (2019). Learning from Young People Engaged in Climate Activism: The Potential of Collectivizing Despair and Hope. Young (Stockholm, Sweden), 27(5), 435–450.

UNICEF (1989). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Available online:

Wahlström, M. et al. (2020) Protest for a future II : Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in fridays for future climate protests on 20–27 September, 2019, in 19 Cities around the World. Available online:

Specifications and deadlines

Please send an abstract of a maximum 300 words to [email protected] and [email protected].

The abstract should include the following information:

The name(s) of the writer(s);

Affiliation and e-mail address;

The title of the article;

Clearly stated research question/aim;

Theoretical framework and methodological reflection;

Primary sources;

Three to five key references to scholarly texts with relevance to the research question.

Abstract deadline: May 15, 2024

Abstract notification: June 15, 2024

Full article deadline: November 1, 2024

Expected publication: March to May, 2025

If you have any inquiries about this Special Issue, you are welcome to contact the Guest Editors, Nina Goga ([email protected]) and Lykke Guanio-Uluru ([email protected]). 

Prof. Dr. Nina Goga
Prof. Dr. Lykke Guanio-Uluru
Guest Editors

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  • aesthetics
  • ethics
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • environment
  • the posthuman
  • Anthropocene

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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