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Intergenerational Dialogue for Climate Justice

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

During the morning session of the COP27 Forum+ held at the London Business School on 12th November 2022, a group of u3a (University of the Third Age) members joined a workshop with students from Warwick University’s Climate Reality Campus Corp to work out how best to talk with people from other generations about climate justice.

Hosted by Climate Reality Europe, Climate Reality team UK, and the u3a online group ‘Countdown to COP’, over 70 participants held discussions to tease out:

  • What is the purpose of intergenerational climate dialogue?

  • How can it be undertaken;

  • What can it achieve?

Although some factions of the mainstream media would have us believe that young people and older people are somehow at loggerheads, this was not what we discovered. In table groups of around 10, comprised of both u3a members and students, and under the guidance of a facilitator, there was purposeful and harmonious discussion.

It was acknowledged in the room that there can indeed be ‘barriers’, such as not approaching each other as equals; pathways do not always naturally intersect; different definitions of a ‘successful life’; language – understanding the words used; avoiding each other (fear); lack of opportunities to interact; lack of information about solutions and innovations; unhelpful media characteristics.

‘Solutions’ that emerged, however, included:

  • making it a regular get-together (not a one-off);

  • using non-threatening dialogue;

  • being positive; cooperation and solidarity;

  • using familiar structures;

  • face-to-face contact;

  • democratic environments (like pubs!);

  • looking after your mental health;

  • using creative techniques like poetry, drama, music, dance; sharing knowledge;

  • actively listening to each other.

Between 12th November and 12th December, the table groups will continue to communicate as facilitators keep the conversations going. It is hoped that relationships will be further cemented and ideas exchanged.

This was the third occasion on which the Countdown to COP group has set out to work with younger people. The ball started rolling in Glasgow during COP26 and continued throughout 2022, gaining experience and learning from each other.

In 2023, the group will be co-producing a ‘How To’ guide for u3as interested in setting up intergenerational dialogue relating to climate and other topics. This ‘model’ will be co-designed with the Warwick University Climate Reality Campus Corp students, offering tips and guidance on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of intergenerational dialogue, and how to ensure a positive experience for all concerned.

Most certainly, we can all be on the same page. With careful planning, clearly expressed expectations, and much focus on listening, much can be achieved, to mutual benefit.

Brenda Ainsley

Climate Reality Leader

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