A Baby Boomer and a Gen Zer Walk Into a Climate Action Meeting

Climate Action

People in midlife who want to switch to a green job might benefit from thinking about how best to communicate constructively with younger people about climate change. Here are some useful tips (we’ll ignore the fact that GenX has been erased from the headlines, yet again):

A gap between the generations is a given—due to pop culture, technology, and the inherent need for every generation to explore and pursue its own vision for the future. But today there is a new tension between youth and adults. Currently, we’re facing a problem that is global in scale, that disproportionately will impact youth, and that adults mostly created: the climate crisis.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 in order to maintain a climate where future damages can at least be tolerated and managed. Instead, the world is on a trajectory to increase emissions by 2030. Adults, who wield all the decision-making power to solve this problem, after three decades of warnings, have so far failed to do so. In the simple words of Ugandan youth climate activist Vanessa Nakate at the 2021 Youth4Climate Summit in Milan, “It’s time.” The intergenerational tension today is qualitatively different from the past because the consequences of adult failure will be felt long after the adults are gone. Youth are rightfully mad as hell, in part because they feel they have little say in their future.

Efforts at adult contrition often backfire—“I’m so sorry my generation messed this up. You’re the future! It’s up to you to fix this!” This framing may seem apologetic and deferential, but instead it makes youth even more resentful. At the same time, youth sometimes convey an analogous message—“You caused this. Just get out of our way.”  Neither attitude is helpful. Read the full article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

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