By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.
No one wants to witness, let alone live through, the demise of a civilization. Whether you’re entering the ‘Third Act’ of your life, or looking to your future as a young adult, this is not what you would ever have predicted for yourself.
CCC19 participant, Maikara McLeod aged 19, was recently ushered into his first year of law school as a prodigal son. His gift of oratory, sharp mind and Māori warrior lineage make him a stellar candidate with huge potential for success. Compatriot, Johanna von Hunerbein aged 18, has diligently been completing the school assignments necessary in order to pursue the career of her dreams in environmental science. She has been evaluating universities in Europe whilst sharpening her academic and social skills in preparation for a leap into the new life she anticipates. These two young people have everything to look forward to, but for the hulking beast of climate change that casts a shadow over their aspirations.
As for me, an elder, my victories have been overcoming the legacies of the Holocaust, domestic violence, political terrorism, rape, and betrayal. I faced them all and triumphed to claim my intelligence, creativity, and ability to love. I made a career of sharing holistic and dependable resources with others, dedicated myself to serving families and to freeing my children and grandchildren from intergenerational traumatic repetition. On entering my seventies, I looked forward to the luxury of writing a memoir. Then came the spectre of climate change and the massive undertaking of convening the upcoming conference, Climate Change & Consciousness: Our Legacy for the Earth.
Is this some kind of universal joke? An ironic twist of fate or a curse? Is it a Sisyphean paradox; the work of a colossal trickster? Is it a trap or karmic retribution for massive human error; the debt we all must pay for our foolishness, ignorance and denial? Is there nothing left to do but grieve the loss of species and fight for hope against the growing onslaught of scientific data that predicts erasure for the future for humanity?
Maikara, Johanna and I will be together with other youth and elders at Climate Change & Consciousness: Our Legacy for the Earth. Our voices will fuse and collaborate, mesh and differentiate as we link our experiences and research, our common faith in human potential and whatever mysterious elements, as yet unknown, that we can alchemically conjure to help us counter the odds. The voices of youth and the voices of the elders are the essential book-ends that will hold together this momentous gathering, which will be unlike any other, in good part because of its intergenerational nature.
“Solidarity across generations is crucial to our salvation.”
— Jayanthma LWickramanayake, U.N. Envoy on Youth
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, from the US and Greta Thunberg from Sweden are teenagers who have created global movements that challenge governments not only through defiant talk but through actions that call everyone to wake up to the awareness that, in Greta’s words, “There is no time to continue down this road of madness.” For the elders, Joanna Macy and Jane Goodall are models. Elegant in their seniority these women remind us of the sliver of time that may still be left to do what Climate Change & Consciousness is all about: act locally and think globally in order protect the planet.
We are all equally important, young and old alike. Never doubt that. No matter what your age, you are needed. Your voice matters. Find your message and, as Xiuhtezcatl Martinez says, “find your tribe”and then, keep going. CCC19 is where you can do that, whether you are on-site or participating through live-streaming.
Let the Youth Lead: A New Kind of Daring
When 11 year old Flossie Donnelly spoke at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin in August 2018, she mesmerized and energized the entirely adult audience. I was there amongst them. Flossie spoke of the need for a coastal clean-up in her locality. And she told the enraptured audience how she had single-handedly been able to source two donated sweep machines to magnetize plastics out of the ocean. Her unswerving mission and fierce motivation have since galvanized groups of adults to act in this cause every weekend and sometimes even daily. It is inspiring to watch adults being led to activism by a child.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) considers it vital to create intergenerational integration in all climate decision making and action, including supporting child-led projects. Save the Children, for instance, consulted with 2500 children as part of its reconstruction process in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean tsunami. Climate change is, in fact, an issue that unites generations even when they disagree on other matters. This was the research finding of the Life Patterns Study at the University of Melbourne in 2018.
When dream into the vast scope and potential of intergenerational collaboration, I experience enthusiasm, eagerness, curiosity and a joyful anticipation about our shared future. Intergenerational collaboration catalysed at Climate Change & Consciousness may be one of the most effective ways to address the critical challenges that lie ahead. I call on all elders to see this time as an opportunity to collaborate with the young; to harvest the learning of their years and blend it with the leadership of youth. It is our job to listen to those who will inhabit a climate changed world.
Hopefully, the world-wide CCC19 live-stream audience will witness and be inspired by the alchemical leadership fusion that will take place during the conference. We wish to galvanise local collaboration fuelled by this paradigm. The mission of Climate Change & Consciousness is to ignite an ongoing and ever expanding movement of proactive, regenerative resilience for 2019 and beyond. We can do this; we can be this hope. This is the essence of our faith.