National Catholic Reporter: EarthBeat
Over the last few years it feels like young people have taken over the climate movement. They’re out striking, suing national governments, occupying congressional offices, and taking to the streets. And according to polls, they care more, with 70% of young adults saying they worry about global warming compared to 56% of people over 55.
But of course – climate action isn’t new – people have been marching, protesting, and demanding change since the 60s and 70s. People who were grandparents today were fighting for the climate when they were young people, and many are still at it today.
It made us wonder: What’s changed since the early days of the environmental movement? How are the stakes different today? And what’s the best way to speak up about climate change?
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.
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?
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.
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.