The view from inside: intergenerational collabs

Cross-group organizing is a real threat to those in power, which is why we see a lot of attempts to get some people to believe that other people are to blame for their problems. When people see another group as the cause of their problems, it gives them somewhere to direct their very real frustration and anger. 

Young people are undoubtedly leading the movement for climate justice. As you should be. 

But we should also talk about the potential that working across generations could bring. We’re all familiar with the rivalries between generations – GenZ vs Millennials and of course, the Boomers (I’m sure there’s a meme coming to mind as you read this). 

And sure, some seniors just don’t get it. But others do. We need to remember that they’ve lived through major social and political changes, and many of them were the activists and radicals of their time and are still fighting, whether we see them or not.

deliberate division

Division between groups – whether along racial lines, between the middle and working classes, or between generations – is created to prevent this kind of solidarity. We’ve seen similar things with traditional environmentalism and social justice in the move towards climate justice (a divide that has been closing in recent years thanks to the intersectionality of youth, especially BIPOC youth).

Cross-group organizing is a real threat to those in power, which is why we see a lot of attempts to get some people to believe that other people are to blame for their problems. When people see another group as the cause of their problems, it gives them somewhere to direct their very real frustration and anger. 

“Division between groups – whether along racial lines, between the middle and working classes, or between generations – is created to prevent this kind of solidarity.”

This kind of conflict, often made worse by existing inequalities like racism and xenophobia, keeps people fighting each other instead of recognizing that a lot of the problems each group faces come from the same systems of power. Because if they realize this, then they can team up against that very system and be much more powerful together. 

When people reach out and form relationships across groups, it makes each group stronger and creates allies.

intergenerational collabs

Especially on the local level, a lot of the people in the climate action scene are from older generations – and many of them have been doing this for a long time. They have experience and can be valuable allies for youth-led climate justice. The youth-led part is still super important, but making space for those with different experiences and wisdom could be an advantage. 

People from older generations have experience campaigning, organizing, fundraising, deposing. They know local politics and politicians better, know how the systems work, and have general life experience that can be really helpful to learn from. 

And youth activists have the energy, imagination and boldness to make more radical demands. You’ve got the most to lose, aren’t caught up in the drama of local politics, understand the connections between environment and social justice, and have a new way of doing politics and dare to create different systems.

“People from older generations have experience campaigning, organizing, fundraising, deposing. They know local politics and politicians better, know how the systems work, and have general life experience that can be really helpful to learn from.”

we both have a lot of the same problems

Today, there’s a lot of division between us and seniors. There aren’t a lot of spaces where younger and older generations interact in any meaningful way other than between family members.  

But the thing is that we have a lot in common, just in different ways. Our experiences are both often devalued. We both face social and physical barriers to participating in society.

Seniors face barriers to social participation in the form of:

  • Lack of knowledge of digital technology use 
  • Some can no longer drive
  • Those who are retired have limits on income
  • Lack of accommodation for physical or health limitations
  • Many must spend their days in residences or long-term care homes, usually separated from the rest of the community
  • Often aren’t taken seriously  

Young people face barriers in the form of:

  • Lack of formal knowledge and qualifications like degrees or job experience
  • Can’t legally vote
  • Some can’t yet drive
  • Many must spend their days in schools, usually separated from the rest of the community
  • Some who work part-time have limits on income
  • Often aren’t taken seriously 

These are generalizations of course, but they are real barriers for many.

Both groups would benefit from more accessible social and political participation. Both would benefit from complete communities. Both would benefit from affordable housing. You get the idea – there’s similarities and opportunities to team up.

We can learn from past movements – collaboration and solidarity between groups can create a much stronger movement and, as history shows us, can make or break a movement completely. 

What do you think about making space for intergenerational collabs in activism? 

Kelly, signing off. 

P.S – I think of these blog posts as an ongoing discussion. You can share your comments below, on social media (links below!) or get in touch with me at kelly@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca.

Picture of Kelly Gingrich

Kelly Gingrich

Kelly is SCGC's Youth Engagement Lead. She has a M.Ed. from OISE, and a B.A. (Hons) from Laurentian, where she specialized in Sociology. She's particularly interested in environmental education

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How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Help us advocate for better planning, which brings people together in a myriad of ways to enhance social cohesion and embrace vibrant differences.
  2. Join For Our Kids and GASP. Both are networks of older generations fighting to ensure the world we leave to our children is a healthy and thriving one.
  3. Support FridaysForFuture and other youth-driven action organizations. As an adult make sure that you are support youth, rather than taking over.

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This is a comment that was posted by SCGC board member Phil Brennan on Ontario’s Environmental Registry regarding the Forest Sector Strategy


In today’s world, more than ever, good forest management needs to reflect a balance between different uses and needs of the forest.  

You do not double industrial output without making provisions for education and research (we must have ecological reserves to study and compare growth with our silvicultural practices); make effective provisions for biodiversity; build into the planning process strong provisions for mitigating climate change (planting trees has limited potential and it is wiser to take care of what we have); including provisions that are supported by experts for the sustainable management of wildlife and fish; building in protections and future growth potential for tourism; effective protection of natural heritage; including strong provisions for species-at-risk (e.g. caribou habitat); and, incorporating the social needs of affected communities through transparent consultation.

Specifically, I have the following concerns:

  1. The commitment to sustainability must specifically address all the points above throughout the development of the final strategy.  Window dressing is not acceptable. 
  2. Any plan to reduce so-called red tape needs to specifically chart the pros and cons of the existing and proposed changes to legislation – if the Class EA for Forestry is to be replaced in whole or part – how will the new rules insure that the public has the same opportunities to affect change as in the current assessment approach. Transparency here is critical.  If there is an intention to change the ‘area of the undertaking’ this must be clearly articulated in any proposal and needs public scrutiny.
  3. The pros and cons of changing from the current FRI based inventory approach need to be documented in a scientific and professional document for the public,  including the provision of clear information on the new remote sensing technology that is proposed and the manner in which it is verified on the ground. 
  4. It is not at all clear how the proposal will provide for additional wood supply certainty.  That’s what the current forest planning manual and requirements has already been designed to do.  
  5. While I applaud any logical efforts to increase the sustainable harvest, the challenges around this need to be more specifically articulated.  The reality is that for economic reasons we have lost pulp mills, sawmills (quality is a factor here), and board mills.  Ontario has been looking for ways to use its surplus birch and poplar supplies for decades.   Even on the private lands, particularly in Southern Ontario, the challenge is utilizing poor quality trees, not saw logs due to a long history of high grading.
  6. Increasing growth potential in our forests suggests a more intensive forest management and greater utilization of lower value material on harvested sites.  This suggests spending more money on forest management and it is not at all clear where that money would come from.  On private land,  the Ontario government  walked away from more intensive forestry work under the Woodlands Improvement Act and the Forestry Act in the last two decades to save money – hard to imagine us going back to programs like that in the near future under our current budget challenges. 
  7. Forest fires and insect and disease attacks, particularly in older forest tracts can be expected to have a significant impact on all uses of the forest and harvesting  and this needs to be addressed in developing new targets for the harvest in Ontario.  We must learn from the Australian situation. With these things in mind, I support the development of a rigorous and professional ‘Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment’ and having it factored into moving forward with forest management and wood supply solutions in Ontario. 
  8. The document notes that Ontario has developed its own provincial policy as an alternative to the federal output-based pricing system to reduce carbon emissions in the section on maximizing the use of mill by-products to fight climate change.  Everyone who knows anything about fighting climate change knows that the Ontario approach is very weak and expected to fail.    If Ontario wants to use climate change arguments as part of its strategy to increase industrial output, you now need to have credible experts document the proposal.  
  9. The proposed Forest Sector Advisory Committee must include NGO’s that represent the interests of the non-timber industry for any strategy to be implemented properly. 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Phil Brennan

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