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Levels of Youth Environmental Agency in Children’s and Young Adult Comics

Many children’s and young adult comics depict empowered young protagonists who express concern for the environment and take action to help combat environmental issues, either individually or through collaborations with others. By raising awareness of environmental issues and actively working to solve them, these protagonists demonstrate young people’s capacity to exert agency, which Allison James and Adrian James define as “children’s ability not only to have some control over the direction their own lives take but also, importantly, to play some part in the changes that take place in society more widely” (4). Like real-world youth activists, youth protagonists with high levels of environmental agency–the ability to recognize environmental issues and injustices, positively impact the environment, and address environmental crises through direct action and activism–challenge popular discourses that often frame young people as passive and powerless. However, environmental comics can also perpetuate systemic issues of representations of age, gender, sexuality, social class, and race, leading to two important questions: Who gets to save the world in an environmental comic, and who gets left out of these narratives? 

Links to Data Visualizations

To explore representations of youth agency in environmental comics, view our data visualizations. Built using the Flourish platform, these visualizations analyze over 70 children’s and young adult comics based on the intersections between environmental themes and depictions of agency, ethnicity, gender, and race.