Can Baby Boomers help Gen Z fix the Climate?

Baby Boomers and Gen Z can work together to fix climate change. The benefits of collaboration are many, but are the divisions too deep?

By: Grant Brown, founder of Happy Eco News

Boomers have the experience, influence and wealth to make massive changes. Will they step up? Image: Envato.

It’s no secret that climate change needs to be addressed no. Future generations will be the ones most affected by climate change, but of those alive today, the ones most affected will be the ones known as Generation Z and those beyond. 

It can be argued that baby boomers have profited the most from environmental damage caused in the name of business, yet Gen Z appears to be taking the most direct action. They don’t have a choice; their future depends on action. But Gen Z is young and inexperienced, and they know it. They also know they are faced with more than uncertainty; they see a future that resembles a combination of Mad Max and Blade Runner. Rightfully, they are afraid. 

Boomers, on the other hand, are healthier and will live longer than any generation before them. They rode a wave of wealth, scientific advances and massive cultural and social change. Despite the social change that occurred during their lives, they never really had to worry about clean water or healthy food. Their prosperity has continued through to today with no end in sight. They are the largest and wealthiest cohort ever, and their power is immense. As a group leveraging their political influence, they have been able to force policy change to suit their current needs for the last 50 years.

Boomers are also known as the Me Generation, a term I often heard in the 1980s when I was a kid. At that time, the mantra greed is good was often repeated in pop culture and exemplified in 1987 with the movie Wall Street. Latchkey kids was the term used to reference their offspring; the parents were rarely, if ever, home.

The Boomers are indeed healthy and powerful, but now, in many cases, they are also the parents and grandparents of the people that will be the first generation to be hurt by the accelerating climate crisis; Gen Z.

People don’t often talk about the fact that with their influence, money and leisure time, Boomers appear to be better positioned to fix the climate crisis than any other group. Unfortunately, it seems they have been more focussed on acquiring personal wealth than protecting the actual environment their grandkids will live in. Of course, they do love their grandkids; they just have not been able to shift from the “greed is good” mentality toward a more altruistic or sustainable way of thinking. Maybe they don’t see what the kids see, or they can’t admit that change is needed. Either way, we all need to step up and take action.

Gen Z sees no certainty of a safe future on a dying planet, not for them or future generations. I personally know young women who say they won’t bring kids into the world they see coming. Is this what “greed is good” brings us? Gen Z can hardly believe that their older generations are willing to squander the planet’s future just to have another home, car, or zero on the end of a financial statement.

Due to their own experiences and wisdom, Boomers cannot possibly understand the complexity of emotions that today’s kids are dealing with. Worse, some appear so focussed on the way things were and trying to get back to the so-called good old days that they cannot see how things really are. 

Will these groups be able to work together actually to do something about it? 

Boomers have the time

Many Baby Boomers are retired from working careers or are close to it. Many will struggle to find purpose after they leave their offices and the social structure they have been a part of for so long. They can apply this time to do the necessary legwork and research required by any well-planned political action effort. 

What they may lack, however, is the urgency that is so prevalent among younger generations. For many Boomers, climate change is seen as a problem for future generations to deal with, something that can be put off until later. 

On the other hand, Generation Z is coming of age in a world already feeling the effects of climate change. They are students and young adults trying to survive in a world of rampant inflation and near-constant crisis. Despite being at an age when summers seem long and school days longer, they know there is no time to waste. They are witnessing first-hand the devastating impacts of extreme weather events and are more aware than ever of the need for urgent action.

Boomers created the mess

It’s no secret that climate change is a huge problem. And it’s also no secret that the problem is one that baby boomers have created and perpetuated. Now, it’s up to them to take responsibility and help try to fix it.

Boomers have shaped popular culture, politics, and even the economy for decades, but in their selfish, me generation greed is good mentality, they’ve never really had to take ownership of anything real. With the power and influence that comes as the largest generation ever, they have always been able to change the narrative and come out on top. Not anymore, however, the science doesn’t lie, and it all points to the choices this generation has collectively made. And now, they’re going to be held responsible for fixing it.

The good news is that baby boomers are in a unique position to make a difference. They have the experience and the wisdom to know what needs to be done. And they have the power to make change happen.

Gen Z has the most at stake

Climate change is now affecting almost everyone on Earth. However, not everyone alive today will see the worst effects of it; unfortunately, the worst will be reserved for the youngest alive today. Gen Z, the adults, parents and grandparents and voters of the future will see the worst effects, so they have the motivation required to take action to fix it. But they are mostly kids. They should be in school, experiencing life and planning how to make the world better, not protesting, organizing and hoping they can prevent their world from being destroyed. 

Boomers have experience and wisdom

Not all Boomers are bad people. The opposite could not be more accurate. Many within the group have spent their entire adult lives working for change. Many have decades of experience with philanthropic endeavours, and others have long histories in business, logistics and finance. Many are speaking out about the need for action on climate change, and some are even running for office so they can help make the changes we need to see. With their knowledge of the workings of business and government, Boomers are a huge resource for influencing these complicated government and non-government organizations.

The older generations have the experience and wisdom to know what needs to be done, while Gen Z is motivated to get things done quickly. We need both sets of skills if we’re going to make a dent in the problem of climate change.

The first step is for the older generations to mentor the younger ones. We have to share our knowledge and expertise with those just starting. It’s not enough to just tell them what needs to be done; we need to do the work alongside them and show them how it’s done. We must lead by example and share our knowledge just as elders have done for millennia.

The second step is for Gen Z to take what they’ve learned from their elders and run with it. They must put their spin on things and develop new and innovative ways to fight climate change. 

But why should Gen Z have to fix it?

One of my favourite quotes is: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” It resonates now, in this current world, more than ever before.

Gen Z has inherited a world in a state of climate emergency, and they will be the ones who have to deal with the consequences. They already see the effects, which will only become more pronounced as they age, and the Boomers, with all their wealth and power, are responsible for it.

So why should Gen Z be left to fix previous generations’ climate problems? It’s not fair, it’s not ethical, and it’s morally wrong. We all are responsible for tackling this issue, and the Boomers need to step up.

Then there’s money

We are all in this together – at least we should be. Image: Envato.

Yes, older generations did cause this problem – but they also have the experience, wisdom, and maybe most importantly, the resources to help solve it. We need to use our wealth to influence the call for action. We need to pull money away from destructive investments and re-allocate it to those that are part of the solution. 

Talk without action is the same as doing nothing at all (maybe worse). Many people feel they want to help but don’t know where to start. Some feel that there are other things they want to do with the limited time they have left. Either way, Boomers have the money to make a difference. As the wealthiest generation, they control a large share of the world’s wealth and have the potential to make significant financial contributions to the fight against climate change.

We must support Gen Z in their efforts to make a difference emotionally and financially. And maybe, most importantly, we must let younger generations know we have their backs. Having generous grandparents to pay college tuition is great, but none of it means anything if these kids graduate from a post-secondary program into a world of scorched earth and upheaval. We need to let them know that we will be there to help them, guide them, and even help finance the work that needs to be done. Baby Boomers need to step up and pay to fix their mess.

The problems facing the world that Gen Z will inherit are huge, but they are not insurmountable. We can all do our part to help, and Baby Boomers can make a more significant difference than any of us.

It is not too late. Take action today.

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