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.
We are excited to share this wonderful blog post by Diana Hackenburg for Climate Optimism, Building a Green Legacy: Elders Climate Action, . Blog post article includes an interview with ECA’s Co-Chair Geri Freedman.
Thank you Climate Optimism for highlighting the work of Elders Climate Action!
In a conference room in the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., 100 older adults listened intently as Ellen Stofan, former chief scientist at NASA, summarized the latest research on global warming. Using vivid maps, she showed that if current trends continue, the average surface temperature on Earth would be 113 degrees Fahrenheit by 2099.
“We can’t grow crops at those temperatures,” she said. “The Earth will recover. It’s not clear the human species will. We’re at a crossroads.”
Her audience, members of Elders Climate Action, needed no convincing. The national grassroots group of 3,300 came to deepen their scientific understanding and to strategize how best to communicate the climate change message to their legislators and to the people back home. Speakers included Ralph Nader and Frank Sesno, former CNN White House correspondent, who advised attendees on how to effectively influence the political system. Read More
ECA Member Meg Newhouse interviewed by Leslie Wittman from Stories with a Heart Videos. Meg reflects on Elders Climate Action Day in Washington, D.C. as well as participating in the climate march. She reminds us of the question “What did you do, once you knew?” Thank you to Stories with a Heart Videos for this wonderful production.
Our Partners at Yale Climate Connections produced this wonderful video highlighting the activities of Elders Climate Action! We are grateful for the support and actions of our partners striving for a better world for all of us.
What are you doing to lessen the effects of climate change?
BY PAUL SEVERANCE
Elders Climate Action was formed a year and a half ago to bring the voices of elders to bear on what scientists agree is the greatest threat to life on Earth in human history: climate change. We came together sharing two convictions:
A conviction that elders have the perspective and wisdom to see that the political gridlock over climate change is absurd – and fueled by the money and influence of the fossil fuel industry. The science is clear: The well-being of the generations of our grandchildren and beyond is deeply threatened by our spewing greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere and warming the planet as a result.
A conviction that elders could be a powerful force in breaking that political gridlock. When we unite around our concern for future generations, we can have immense clout: Our numbers are growing and growing. We vote in higher percentages than other age groups. We are deeply concerned about our legacy; we have the long-term perspective to make future generations a top priority; and we know that we have a responsibility to speak out on their behalf!
With age comes wisdom. Ask any politician. They listen closely to what older Americans think and say for a simple reason: older people vote.
There’s an even simpler reason why politicians (and all of us) should listen to the elders of our communities: they’ve seen and know a lot. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that a growing number of seniors are taking up a cause that’s the critical challenge of our age: climate change.
While efforts to lower global emissions often send people into partisan corners of the political boxing ring, one group is showing it’s possible to transcend boundaries and unite around this common goal.
“We’re facing a lot of challenges as a country, and as a world, and I had this sense that older folks could be making more of a contribution,” said Paul Severance, a founder of Elders Climate Action. Read the full Article Here
Few things strike fear into the hearts of politicians like a disgruntled grandparent entering a voting booth. Seniors wield immense political power in the United States, a fact made plain by their voting record. In the 2014 midterm elections, a year of historically low voter turnout, nearly 59 percent of adults aged 65 and older pulled the lever on Election Day. Just 23 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to do the same. It’s numbers like these that have made Social Security and Medicare the third rail of American politics.
So, what happens when America’s seniors find out what climate change means for their grandkids?
Recently, dozens of retirees descended on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate action. Organized by the Conscious Elders Network, the Grandparents Climate Action Day brought together seniors from around the country. Following a day of training, during which renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen spoke to those assembled, the gray-haired activists headed for the Hill. They urged their representatives to support the Clean Power Plan and they advocated for pricing carbon emissions using systems like cap and dividend. Read the full Article Here