‘Creating Our Legacies’: The Elders Fighting for Climate Justice

Gizmodo – Earther, by Alex Schwartz (4.6.2020)

Last October, Jane Fonda received the 2019 Stanley Kubrick award for excellence in film, a prestigious honor from the British Academy of Television Film and Arts. Regrettably, the then-81-year-old actress was too busy getting arrested on Capitol Hill to accept the award in person.

“Thank you, BAFTA!” she shouted as police led her away in plastic handcuffs. The civil disobedience was part of Fire Drill Fridays, a weekly rally organized by the actress-turned-activist in partnership with other climate justice organizations. More than 30 other demonstrators also filed into police vans that day, one of whom was Lynne Iser, roughly 10 years Fonda’s junior.

Iser got her own pair of handcuffs and rode to jail with Fonda and a few other arrestees. They talked about their motivations for joining the climate movement, their engagement with different environmental organizations and the importance of doing something to support a cause they cared about.

“She just felt the same angst for her grandchildren,” Iser told Earther.

Though she was in college during the Civil Rights Movement and supportive of the era’s societal change, Iser was never one to get arrested for a cause. But as she aged, her worldview shifted. She began to see growing older as an opportunity to reflect on the kind of world she would leave future generations. The wisdom and experience gained through the years of life under her belt became assets in making that world a fairer and safer place. She wasn’t aging; she was “eldering.”

“What I think is most important now is creating our legacies,” Iser told Earther. “What do we want to stand up for and fight for?”

As her daughters became anxious about the state of the Earth’s climate, Iser decided she would fight for a habitable planet. She joined Elders Action Network, an organization that engages older people in social justice and climate activism. Once she heard about Fonda’s plan to be arrested every Friday for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, she headed down from Philadelphia to join her, along with folks from all generations willing to sacrifice their criminal records for the good of the planet.

People like Fonda and Iser may seem out of place in the primarily youth-led climate movement—they’re at least half a century older than activists like Greta Thunberg, Isra Hirsi, and Jamie Margolin. But as they age, older people are becoming more willing to stand alongside their grandchildren in the fight for a livable future—and they have the time, networks, and wisdom to make a real impact.

A small group of concerned older people founded Elders Climate Action (ECA) in 2015 to mobilize their generation on climate and social justice-related issues. The group—now more than 10,000 strong—has seen a significant uptick in membership since youth-led movements made the climate crisis a top issue. ECA partners with environmental organizations like the Environmental Voter Project and youth-led movements like the U.S. Climate Strike and the Sunrise Movement to bring older people into the climate fight alongside younger generations.

These climate elders come from a variety of backgrounds and have varying experiences with activism. Hazel Chandler, a co-leader and founder of ECA’s Arizona Chapter, has participated in the environmental movement ever since the first Earth Day in 1970. Back then, she saw firsthand how demonstrating for clean air and water resulted in meaningful policy change. Today, the climate movement is trying to tackle an even greater challenge than cleaning up toxic waste or regulating air pollution. It’s trying to transform humanity’s relationship with the Earth to prevent the catastrophic decline of ecosystems we depend on for our survival.

“My son, who just turned 51 years old, was a toddler on my hip when I first knew global warming could be a problem,” Chandler told Earther. In 2015, she retired from her job at a state organization that funds early childhood programs and decided to devote her free time to ensuring those children have a livable planet to succeed on. One phone call with ECA, and she was suddenly on the newly formed organization’s national steering committee.

Give Podcast – featuring Geri Freedman

Listen to Geri Freedman, ECA Co-Chair on the Give Podcast.  She discusses the history and actions of ECA and why elders are getting engaged in climate action.

Today we bring you Geri Freedman of Elders Climate Action, a national movement that aims to get the elderly inspired and involved in taking climate action. Founded by a retired rocket scientist who wanted a better future for the younger generations, Elders Climate Action debunks the myth that retirement is a time for standing still.

Elders Climate Action is made up of elders from around the country who have a passion for the future and want to give back.Elders have time, resources, and wisdom and no matter where they’re at, they can take action.Geri tells us the story of a member who sent over 100,000 text messages to get out the vote – right from her home and a woman living in an assisted living facility who attends their virtual calls weekly.

Passion is what drives the members of this non-profit.They seek to empower with information and maintain a website full of information and resources for those that want to be involved.

How can you help?

  • Donate or create a fundraiser
  • If you don’t have a chapter near you, participate virtually through calls and events
  • Encourage anyone and everyone to vote
  • Follow on social channels (links below)

Finally, don’t forget to share this episode.Sharing this episode will help Elders Climate Action increase its impact and will help us at the GIVE Podcast keep spreading the word about important charities and nonprofits.

Be inspired.GIVE.


Did You See ECA listed by Yale Climate Connections?

Yale Climate Connections

Six groups that will help you get active on climate

Wondering what you can do? Here are some places to start.

The summer’s worldwide climate strikes, led by children and teenagers, have proven to be both galvanizing and important.

But as 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg keeps emphasizing, dealing with climate change shouldn’t be the job of children. For one thing, we can’t wait for these alarmed young people to grow old enough to take leadership positions to enact policies or invent new technologies – or even, in many cases, to vote. Adults need to step up to the job. It’s they who need to be galvanized.

But, you may think, even if just to yourself, “What can I do all alone?” It’s a common refrain.

One easy answer: stop being alone. Find other people to work with. Start your own group. Or join one that feels right for you.

Here are a few sample ideas.

First, for a laugh about how adults should not react to the youth-led strikes, watch this YouTube video of a Greta Thunberg Helpline (“For adults angry at a child”).

To help yourself get going, even if it is just by talking, read this very good essay by Alex Steffen, “How to Be Young in a Climate Emergency.”

Two well-known groups are 350.org, which focuses on keeping fossil fuels in the ground, mainly through widespread grassroots activism, and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which trains people to engage elected officials in bipartisan conversations about carbon fee and dividend plans.

If one of your jobs is being a parent, you might want to look at Moms Clean Air Force, Mothers Out Front (recognized by the UN with one of its Global Climate Action Awards), and Ecodads. And check the Australian group 1 Million Women, especially its Facebook feed, which is full of concrete daily changes you could make. These groups engage in activism, politics, education, reducing carbon consumption in daily life, and more. You needn’t join in any official way to take inspiration from them.

Last, but far from least, if you’re old enough to be a grandparent, with a deep well of experience and knowledge to draw from, a seasoned heart and mind, and some time and passion to give, take a look at Elders Climate Action.



Did You See ECA on MSNBC?

A Special Segment During the September Climate Strike

More older Americans becoming climate activists


Millions of kids walked out of their classrooms today to draw attention to the climate change crisis. Even though most people probably associate this kind of activism with young people, the climate crisis is also turning retirees into activists. Chris Jansing explains.

Watch the video here 


Did You See ECA in the USA Today?

These grandparents are dropping everything to fight climate change

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, Published 9:24 a.m. ET April 23, 2019

Late-blooming climate activists

Leslie Wharton calls herself a “late-blooming” activist. Now 67, she still works full time as a lawyer, a career that’s kept her so busy she simply hadn’t paid much attention to the issue of climate change.

She was never much for protesting, even though she was in college during the Vietnam War.

“I didn’t go out and march. I was too deep in my studies,” she said. She ended up getting a Ph.D. in American history, then going to law school.

A six-month sabbatical gave her time to catch up on her reading. What she learned about climate change worried her as someone who had studied the rise and fall of Babylonia, Assyria and ancient Rome and Greece.

“We live in a world we think is forever. Because I had been a historian, I realized that there’s nothing guaranteed,” she said.

She lives in Montgomery County, Maryland and in 2015 she got involved with Elders Climate Action, a national group of grandparents and concerned elders who work to fight climate change. “I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a gathering in D.C.,” she said.

It’s not something she’s really comfortable with as a “totally introverted non-activist,” but she feels she must. There’s no time to lose, she said.

“If we play our cards right, we could actually come through or we could lose it all. A lot turns on what happens in the next year, five years, 10 years. We can’t wait 10 years to start moving.”

Last month, she did a presentation on climate change at a nearby retirement community. She’s also worked with some elders in a supported living community on the nuts and bolts of political organizing.

“They have been busy protesting fracking gas pipeline construction for the past year!” she said.

Read the Full Article Here



Did You See ECA in Yes! Magazine?

A Climate Action for Every Type of Activist

No matter your age, gender, race, or political ideology, there are ways to fight climate change that fit your life and values.

Read the Original Full Article here:  Yes! Magazine

Most of us have heard about U.N. researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods, and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.

But another option is good for you and the planet.

Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at the College of Wooster, says getting involved with a group can help lift your climate-related anxiety and depression in three ways. Working with like-minded folks can validate your concerns, give you needed social support, and help you move from feeling helpless to empowered.

And it can make a difference. “Groups are more effective than individuals,” Clayton says. “You can see real impact.”

So join forces with like-minded citizens and push for change.

The U.S. Climate Action Network lists more than 175 member organizations, which are activist groups working through energy policy to fight climate change. And that doesn’t include all of the environmental groups out there. So you have lots of options for getting involved.

Full disclosure: I found my activism comfort zone with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I love its bipartisan, nonconfrontational style, and it suits me. What’s your climate action style?

I’ve done some matchmaking for you. Here are nine activism styles that might fit, along with some groups that align with them. Pick one, and you can start making change.

1. You believe in a bipartisan approach.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an option for those who believe the best strategy is to gain support on both sides of the aisle. The group trains people in ways to build political will in their communities and to effectively lobby their members of Congress. It asks volunteers to bring respect and empathy to all of those encounters, even when talking with people who may vehemently disagree with their cause.

What distinguishes Citizens’ Climate Lobby from many climate groups is its singular legislative goal—to see a fee placed on carbon, with the proceeds returned to citizens as dividends. After more than 10 years of lobbying, a bill similar to their proposal has been introduced with bipartisan sponsors in the U.S. House.

2. You’re an educator looking for support.

The Alliance for Climate Education can be a climate teacher’s best friend. It offers educational and interactive resources that can be streamed to high school classrooms. The group also works to fight anti-science policies that have been cropping up in some school districts and helps train teachers to counter misinformation.

3. You’re ready to take it to the streets.

Consider joining 350.org. You may find yourself attending rallies, lobbying elected officials, helping get out the vote, or even getting arrested for protesting fossil fuel projects.

“To solve and fight the climate crisis, we need to employ every tactic we have,” says Lindsay Meiman, 350 U.S. communications coordinator.

One of the group’s more high-profile fights has been against the Keystone XL pipeline. But 350 members are also encouraged to take actions that make sense in their own communities. For instance, Meiman has been involved in a campaign against a fracked natural gas pipeline under New York Harbor.

4. You’re a fierce mama or papa bear looking out for your kids.

Check out Moms Clean Air Force, a million-strong organization of moms (plus dads, grandmas, aunts, uncles, godparents). These parents show up in senators’ offices, with babies on hips, to talk about climate change. They testify against rollbacks of clean air regulations. They work with their mayors to spark change locally, and they write or call their representatives.

“We have this saying: ‘Tell Congress to listen to your mother,’” says Heather McTeer Toney, national field director.

5. You prefer working with people who share your culture.

If you’re a person of color, working with White progressives may not feel comfortable for a variety of reasons, no matter how welcoming they try to be.

Hip Hop Caucus is an option for anyone who embraces hip-hop culture regardless of age or race, says Mustafa Santiago Ali, a former senior vice president. The group takes a holistic approach, linking culture and policy. Its work ranges from registering people to vote to lobbying members of Congress to producing the radio show and podcast Think 100.

Other options for climate fighters of color: the Indigenous Environmental Network, GreenLatinos, Ecomadres, and the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

6. You’re young and ready to change the world.

The Sunrise Movement started in April 2017 and got lots of attention last year for its protest along with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding a committee to study the Green New Deal proposal.

The Sunrise target age is 14 to 35, and most members are in their teens and 20s. The group is growing fast—100 new hubs opened within two months in communities across the country after November. Communications Director Stephen O’Hanlon says the group’s overarching goal is “taking on the corrupting influence of fossil fuels and making climate change an urgent priority in every corner of the country.”

And if you’re still in high school, another option is Alliance for Climate Education.

7. Your spiritual beliefs guide your life—and your climate actions.

Many religious groups find support for caring for the planet in the Scriptures. Two that are doing important work are Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and its parent group, Evangelical Environmental Network.

Because evangelical Christians are often more conservative than traditional environmentalists, these groups are able to get an audience with Republican lawmakers (they’ve met with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) who are less receptive to liberals. They also work to educate fellow churchgoers and spur them to action.

Other faith-based options include Green Faith, which unites people from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist traditions in working to protect the planet, and Interfaith Power and Light.

8. You have more money than time.

If you’re too busy to volunteer time but would like to support the climate cause financially, all of the above groups have operating expenses and need donations.

You may also want to invest in one of the large established groups that have been in the environmental battle for years, like the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club Foundation.

Charity Navigator, an organization that ranks charities based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency, can help you evaluate the groups. But be aware that relatively new or small groups may not be evaluated yet.

9. You’re older and want to fight for the next generation.

Elders Climate Action members are using their life experience and skills—and for many, the extra time they have in retirement—to try to make a difference on climate issues.

“Most of us won’t be around when the worst of climate change hits, but the people we love will be,” says Leslie Wharton, Elders co-chair.

Although members are nominally 55 and older, anyone can join; people as young as 18 have. And even though some members are in frail health, they can still get a lot done. For instance, members of an Elders group at an assisted living home write letters to lawmakers to ask for pledges of action on climate from candidates who come to speak to them.


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