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.

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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