BAB 037/20: Rural youth and sustainability

Initial situation and objective

n the project Youth in the Countryside and Sustainability it was planned to investigate the attitudes towards ecological conditions of adolescents and young people in the countryside with regard to the Fridays for Future movement. In view of the serious social changes during the Covid-19 pandemic and due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-, social and psychological problems have become more urgent in 2020. These will now be addressed in advance within the framework of the project, and subsequently the attitudes of adolescents and young people towards the ecological situation will be investigated.
Within the framework of this study, the effects of the social situation on adolescents and young people in the countryside since March 2020, characterised by great insecurity, fear, restrictions and bleak future prospects, will be investigated by means of questions. General guiding questions, which will be specified within the framework of the project, will be: How do young people who are undergoing profound physical and psychological processes of change fare when external social circumstances also point to significant transformations? What support do adolescents and young people need to cope with their fears? What advantages do adolescents and young people in rural areas have in times of lockdown compared to those living in cities? What are the disadvantages of living in the countryside? What role do social media play? How do they deal with the widespread fake news? What do adolescents and young people in rural areas see as the greatest challenges for their future? What questions do they have about their future in rural areas and what do they need to be able to shape it? What are their ideas of a sustainable lifestyle that makes it possible to avoid the adverse effects on the ecosystem? What are the needs in terms of sustainability so that the basic needs of adolescents and young people in rural areas can be met? What expectations do different groups of young people have of political decision-makers with regard to a healthy lifestyle that includes the possibility of personal development? It will be investigated which conditions, strategies, structures and values are necessary to achieve ecological goals and to support young people in rural areas to develop more sustainable lifestyles.

Special attention will be paid to communication. The culture of conversation in our country as well as in the entire western hemisphere has experienced massive restrictions in the past decades. Children and young people are confronted with bullying and slander in schools when they express their own views. It seems as if there is a "linguistic restricted area"
(Rainer Mausfeld) that no one is allowed to enter. Transgressions of this prohibition are punished with ostracism and even character assassination. What do young people need to develop the courage to express their opinions, to discuss with people of different opinions and thus grow into mature, self-determined citizens who form a healthy basis for democratic conditions? These are especially in demand in rural regions, where the behaviour of subservience seems to be more pronounced than in urban areas, both for cultural reasons and due to social control measures. In this context, the question is also explored to what extent social and intellectual confinement, village imperialism, the command to obey and the limited opportunities to develop oneself motivate young people to leave their life in the country behind and move to a city in the sense of "city air makes you free". On the other hand, the question will be addressed as to which social framework conditions youths and young people expect/hope for in order to be able to shape a life in the countryside according to their own wishes and ideas. Last but not least, this study will deal with the concrete fears of youths and young people and how these can be countered.

Justification of the need

The term "fit for grandchildren" demonstrates that the issue of sustainability is inextricably linked to youth, future generations and thus to the future. In line with Albert Einstein's view, our current problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them. New ways of thinking and new approaches are needed to tackle the environmental, social and economic crises. A major theme of this study is that young people already have new ways of thinking that can be incorporated into new approaches and policy proposals.

Status of the project

In 2020 and 2021, literature and internet studies were used to analyse how precarious the situation was as a result of policy decisions made against the background of Covid-19. There were increasing reports of young people in particular being admitted to hospitals and psychiatric clinics after suicide attempts or actually taking their own lives. Consequently, it is assumed that mental illnesses, suicides and suicide attempts will also have increased in Austria in 2020 as well as in the following year 2021 due to lockdowns and other measures, and that especially adolescents and young people in rural areas are affected by fears for the future and destabilising conditions. Due to the cooperation in the projects Women in Vibrant Rural Areas and Market Power, Covid Lessons Learned as well as the final work and presentation of the report "Social Processes in Rural Areas", only little time could be spent on this project in 2021.

Work 2022

Qualitative interviews and workshops with adolescents and young people will be conducted to find answers to a variety of questions. In the second half of 2022, after the completion of the project "Women and Vibrant Rural Areas", workshops with young people, educators and carers will look back at lockdowns and other measures to find out how youth and young people in rural areas can be offered support in coping with the additional burdens caused by social conditions and restrictions. What personal threats do young people in rural areas see in this? What challenges do they have to overcome?
Based on the results, the thesis is tested that people generally deal with the relationships of nature in a caring way if they themselves have experienced care. In this way, the issue of sustainability is explored after analysing the social conditions. In deep ecology, the devastating ecological conditions are seen as a consequence of social neglect. Therefore, it is indispensable to first analyse the social and psychological conditions of youth and young people in rural areas before dealing with their attitudes towards ecological conditions. This will test the thesis: If rural policy creates caring conditions for children and young people to grow up, they will be more inclined to live in the countryside as adults and to deal with the social environment as well as with the conditions of nature in a caring way.


Project start: January 2020
End of project: March 2023
The report will be completed by the end of 2023.

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Project Leader

LOIBL, Elisabeth Elisabeth LOIBL

Agricultural, Environmental and Food Systems



Agricultural, Environmental and Food Systems
TAMME, Oliver

M.Sc. Oliver TAMME

Mountain Areas Research and Regional Development
Dietrichgasse 27
1030 Wien
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