It's time for an Intergenerational Partnership on Climate
Climate action is on the forefront of young people's minds. A recent poll from the U.S. Conference on Mayors discovered that 80% of young people ages 18 to 29 feel that climate change is a "major threat to life on earth." According to a 2019 Washington Post-Kaiser poll, one in four young people have taken climate action either by protesting, lobbying, or pushing for clean energy in their communities. Gen Z (those born after 1997) are understandably worried about what a warming future means for them.
It's time for us to step up. We need to engage with them, stand beside them, and call on our elected leaders to take big action. We're seeing progress with the bipartisan infrastructure bill before Congress, but we need bigger, bolder, and faster investments to curb global warming.
Reporter Beth Daly of the online news service The Conversation points out that the climate movement needs to reach out and mobilize Baby Boomers in this article. She convincingly argues that older populations are vulnerable to climate change weather-related events, the demographic is growing and so is their share of emissions, and that Boomers make sure their votes count. Furthermore, the elderly have considerable wealth, which makes them an important political force, that if fully engaged, could move the needle on climate action.
In addition to working across the aisles politically, we need to work across the generations to create space for young people to be heard and for older people to listen, to connect, and to act.
For some families, talking about climate change results in a riff. Last year, Oliver Milman of The Guardian reported that more and more young people feel that older generations are not listening to their concerns about the future. He profiles a Gen Z activist who writes a letter to her grandparents about her anxiety over our warming world and asks them to support her. Another teen can't get her "apolitical Gen X parents" to really listen to her worries about the future. My own teenagers have told me that they feel like saving the planet rests squarely on their shoulders. Gen Z needs our help and support.
A few ideas on how different Service Superpowers can create more Intergenerational Conservation & Partnership:
Adventurers: Talk to someone in a different generation than you. Share your experience witnessing climate change. Ask what they think about global warming and exchange ideas on the most promising climate solutions.
Influencers: Share this article with someone from a different generation. Ask whether they understand the concerns of young people and climate change or whether they feel heard if they're a young person. Create a space for conversation about how they feel about the future.
Philanthropists: Offer to volunteer or host a Zoom "roundtable" with members of your family or a group of friends about climate. Support a youth action climate group, ask how they are reaching out to other generations, and offer to help.
Sages: Engage your place of worship or community on climate. Ask a member of the youth group about climate change or host an intergenerational discussion on climate change and climate solutions. You might be surprised on what you hear.
Sparks: Reach out to a younger family member or friend. Ask them about climate change - what they know, how they feel, what they envision the future will be like.
Wonks: Read about Gen Z and the "generational divide" on climate. Think about movements and societal changes you've witnessed. Ask a young person about climate and share your experiences seeing positive social change in your lifetime.