A necessary condition for a functioning democracy is the participation of its citizens, including its youth. This is particularly true for political participation in environmental decisions because these decisions can have intergenerational consequences. In this article we examine young people’s beliefs about one form of political participation - protest - in the context of communities affected by fracking and associated anti-fracking protest, and discuss the implications of these representations for education. Drawing on focus groups with 121 young people (age 15-19) in 5 schools and colleges near sites which have experienced anti-fracking protest in England and Northern Ireland, we find young people well-informed about avenues for formal and non-formal political participation against a background of disillusionment with formal political processes and varying levels of support for protest. We find representations of protest as disruptive, divisive, extreme, less desirable than other forms of participation, and ineffective in bringing about change but effective in awareness-raising. These representations are challenging, not least because the way protest is interpreted is critical to the way people think and act in the world. These representations of environmental protest must be challenged through formal education in order to safeguard the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure that the spirit of Article 11 of the UK Human Rights Act is protected.
Bibliographical note© 2021 The Authors