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ARCHIVE UPDATE [from 2-7-17] — “It would be easy to view the islands as distant lands with distant challenges,” Justin Worland wrote in ‘This Island is Sinking’ for TIME Magazine (6-24-19). The essay revealed the struggles to save island nations succumbing to climate change. “But their tragedy may soon be ours,” he exclaimed.

Consider for sake of argument replacing the peril of these islands with that of our current generation of older adults. “This isn’t lost on those nation’s leaders, Worland related. “Their fate is ours foretold, they tell anyone who will listen.” This clarion call must be shouted across generations. It matters how we — young and old — care for our planet and for one another. In fact, such generativity is a matter of life and death.


Not wanting to burden their children is a fundamental concern of many older adults as they age. A National Institutes of Health research study titled “You Don’t Want to Burden Them” confirmed as much, identifying burden as an important concept in older adults’ interactions with their families around care.

It would seem a reasonable extrapolation for older adults to be leading the environment movement; to be especially concerned about protecting the planet’s resources for their children and grandchildren.

The irony, which is polite for contradiction, which is a euphemism for hypocritical, is that older adults are comparatively less concerned about the human impact on climate change on the planet than younger generations, those who will inherit civilization’s greatest challenge and burden, ever.

Pew Research Center surveyed people on their opinions about whether 1) Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, 2) natural patterns or 3) there is no evidence.

Sixty percent of 18-29-year-old respondents believe climate change is due to human activity. Believers declined with age, to just 31 percent of adults ages 65 and older agreeing with the science of climate change. Conversely, 20 percent of people ages 18-29 believe there is no scientific evidence of global climate change, while 33 percent of people 65 and older registered denial.

More than 2,000 years ago Roman philosopher Seneca prophesied, “There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them.” Confronted with major environmental burdens, no doubt future generations will be more shocked than amazed by this generation’s ignorance and lack of consideration for their well-being.

Even the slightest postponement of efforts to control climate change, something President Trump is expected to propose, doubly impacts the next generation. Researchers recently concluded that a delay in mitigation could lead to substantially exceeding global temperature limits for dangerous levels of emissions and concentrations, perhaps indefinitely.

The climate modelers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and ETH Zurich warned, “Delay is the worst enemy for any climate target.” They argued, “Even if emissions were to decrease again after eight years, it could take an additional 15-25 years for emissions to get back to current levels.”


The impact of a changing climate is already happening and will present dire consequences for the rest of the century. Reports are calling out “’high risk levels’ for spread of disease in Africa; property loss and mortality due to wildfires in North America; and decreased food production and food quality in South America,” according to a recent National Geographic article.

People of all ages need to understand: Climate change is not a youth movement; it is a human race toward extinction. This is the antithesis of generativity: one generation intentionally burdening another.

One Comment

  • Gary says:

    “Climate change is not a youth movement; it is a human race toward extinction. ” What a powerful statement,

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