Panel L.01 — Adolescents, Intergenerational Relationships and Sustainable Future: The Role of School and Education

Convenors Silvia Zanazzi (Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy); Elena Marescotti (Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy)

Keywords adolescence, moral development, environmental justice, sustainability, integral ecology.


We believe in integral humanism, which implies a lifestyle that respects the dignity of all. We commit to educate our consumption standards, take care of Creation, to impact in a positive way our local environment, and work together with active civil society, science, and institutions, towards the development of the common good (from the Final Statement by Economy of Francesco, Assisi 2022)

Moral development is a process that extends from childhood to adulthood and involves changes in thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and knowledge. During adolescence, the desire for autonomy, the search for coherence, and the sensitivity to relationships with others contribute to defining oneself from a moral perspective. Building one’s morality means defining the criteria to distinguish right from wrong, accepting certain values to guide one’s life, and committing oneself to making them concrete.

The process of building identity, the common thread of developmental tasks in adolescence, enhances the active role of the person in the face of change, the search for one’s paths, choices, and commitment. Self-definition also requires recognition from others, so that commitments can represent the heart of a relational definition of identity. Commitment is equivalent to choosing a direction to remain faithful to and against which to verify, over time, one’s autonomy and coherence.

One of the areas in which adolescents define themselves as moral subjects is that of respect for the environment and, more generally, sustainability. From the perspective of both integral ecology and the so-called ecological transition, “humans are a part of nature” (GreenComp, 2022). Today, therefore, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from that of human, family, work, or urban contexts, nor from each person’s relationship with herself, which in turn generates a certain way of relating to others and the environment.

Numerous surveys have found that adolescents are increasingly informed and sensitive towards the issues of environmental justice, also considered from a social and nutritional point of view, and are reclaiming their role as protagonists in the debate on sustainability. It is essential, therefore, to provide places and structured ways of listening to young people, so that they can make their voices heard, talk about their experience of the present, and plan the vision of the future together.

Schools and educational contexts have a great responsibility and a great opportunity, that of supporting adolescents in their processes of growth and construction of values, creating the appropriate conditions for them to express themselves, and translating their value choices into concrete behaviors and actions. It is essential that creative energy, critical and divergent thinking, and the ability to embrace the challenges, that are features of adolescence, can find vital and transformative space in society, starting from the places and processes of education.

How can adults accompany adolescents in the process of defining and realizing their environmental justice values, through educational situations and experiences?

The panel collects analyses and theoretical reflections, empirical research, and experiences of educators and secondary school teachers on the relationship between adolescence, moral development, environmental justice, and sustainability.


Guidelines and abstracts submission