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Abstract

Climate change is a multi-generational problem, but it does not impact all generations in the same way. Correspondingly, older Americans and younger ones differ greatly in how they perceive the issue and how they respond. The wave of youth activism epitomized by Greta Thunburg is on one side of this generation gap. Donald Trump’s climate skepticism is on the other. We’re talking about large groups of people, so there is a range of attitudes on both sides, but these two individuals represent the generational differences in dramatic form. My goal today is to explore these generational differences. I want to be concrete, so as a focal point I’ll examine a hypothetical but typical family, beginning with a Baby Boomer and her Generation Z granddaughter. This, then, will be the story of Samantha, her twenty-year-old granddaughter Cassandra, and Cassandra’s own future family. As an excursion from this hypothetical family, I’ll also talk about some young people in Utah who are younger members of Cassandra’s generation and what they’ve done about climate change. And finally, I’ll talk about future generations such as Samantha and Cassandra’s descendants in 2150. That’s a distant time, about as distant as the Civil War is from the present. Yet our society today was deeply shaped by the Civil War and Reconstruction, just as we in turn will help shape the world of 2150. Each of these generations is impacted differently by climate change, leading to distinctive issues. The Boomer generation, or at least too many of us, remains silent if not resistant to climate action. Gen Z, millennials, and those in between, are much more favorable to climate action, if not always activists themselves. The young Utah activists are evidence of how broadly the inclination to take an active part is distributed. People like them are becoming important voices in society’s deliberations over climate change. Future generations will be the most severely impacted. They are necessarily silent in today’s debates and litigation, but I’ll discuss the possibility of giving them greater representation in today’s climate debates.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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