Groups like Third Act, Elders Climate Action, and Great Old Broads For Wilderness are mobilizing the largest and most powerful group of Americans to fight climate change.
For all the energy and effectiveness of Gen Z and Indigenous groups, significant progress on climate change won’t happen without the buy-in of the group that controls the vast majority of power and money in this country. That same group is also the fastest-growing cohort in the nation — those aged 60 and over.
Every day, 10,000 more people become seniors. They feature predominantly in positions of power, and they hold $35 trillion in wealth, about 53 percent of all the nation’s capital. Despite being the largest group of the workforce, in comparison, millennials have just 4.6 percent of total wealth. For the climate movement, that’s a problem: baby boomers are, on average, more politically conservative, less likely to consider climate change as a top concern, and have more time to engage in politics.
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But a new movement is turning those boomers into climate activists. Groups like Third Act, Elders Climate Action, and Great Old Broads For Wilderness are mobilizing “experienced” Americans to change the world for the better.
“Older people need to start taking real responsibility, in part because we caused the problems and in part because they can’t be solved without us,” Third Act Founder Bill McKibben told Yahoo News.
According to McKibben, a longtime environmental activist and New Yorker writer, older Americans are essential to making progress against climate change.
“Young people are now fully engaged and leading the way; we’re seeing remarkable activism in frontline and Indigenous communities,” writes McKibben. “As a rule, people do become more conservative as they age, but it’s not an inviolable maxim — many of the people in these generations witnessed broad cultural and political change in their early years, and now, conscious of their kids and their grandkids, they may be emerging from the primes of their lives with the skills and the resources to help make big change again.”
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Third Act campaigns on the issues of climate change, racial equity, and the protection of democracy, and boomers can get involved by joining their network and signing on to letters of support.
Elders Climate Action champions climate change by engaging, educating, and activating its 12,000 members among 14 nationwide chapters. They participate in direct action, like communicating with lawmakers and protesting in the streets, to use their influence to promote the immediate and comprehensive changes needed to limit the consequences of climate change.
“It’s a dedicated group of people — some quite new to the movement,” says Bruce D. Cooley, the ECA communications co-chair. “But everybody brings incredible experience and perspective to the climate movement.”
Cooley says he’s seen a lot of progress, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. With the latest IPCC report, he knows that every fraction of a degree can change the outcomes for his children and grandchildren. He wants to model ECA’s advocacy on the mass Civil Rights movement of the ’60s, and combine the energy of youth with the experience of elders, to mobilize for a climate emergency.
“The youth, what they bring is something brand new,” says Cooley. “It’s their future they’re fighting for, and elders can hear that. It starts to reframe the last 40 years of being aware of climate change and waiting for the global alarm to go off and never did. Elders have seen the world change in various environments, and that can really motivate and help connect us to the urgency that the youth are bringing.”
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