Greening Gray: Climate Action for an Aging World
Public Policy & Aging Report
Sandy is a 68-year-old anthropologist. When I first talked to her about climate change, I thought it might be a quick conversation.
“How concerned are you about climate change?”
“It’s an after-I’m-gone problem.”
An after-I’m-gone-problem. That phrase sounded familiar.
“It’s wonderful not caring about climate change.” “I’ll be long gone.” “It’s an after-I’m-dead problem.”
Actors Cloris Leachman, Bill Cobbs, and Ed Asner sure get your attention in “Old People Don’t Care About Climate Change,” a video making the rounds on Funny or Die.
The satire is good, but the reality is better. Climate change is one issue that unites generations and cuts across party lines.
Like all good humor, the video clip works because of content and timing: It plays upon stereotypes of greedy geezers, and it assumes that we have all the time in the world to solve the problems. Neither is accurate.
And Sandy’s self-proclaimed lack of concern wasn’t accurate either: She spends each summer in Haiti, learning from villagers how to “live lightly on the earth,” while coping with her own sense that there is not much she, a single individual, can do to change the direction of climate change.
In this article, I will frame why we need to focus more attention on an important and growing resource, older adults, to help respond to a pressing and growing problem, climate change. Along the way, I’ll briefly review data on the growing consensus on the need for action, why the next few years are especially important, and strategies for moving older adults from anxiety to action on climate change.
Smyer, M.A. (2017). Greening gray: Climate action for an aging world. Public Policy & Aging Report, 27(1), 4-8.