Being alive today makes us all, regardless of age, part of one collective Clean Energy Generation that will rise together to face the challenge, hand in hand.Reed Winckler | April 14, 2023
This morning I shut off the alarm, cooked my breakfast on an electric stove with the kitchen light on above, and drove my car to get a coffee. I got my day started just like others across my community do every day, from kids who ride the school bus like I once did to those newly retired enjoying a slow morning like I one day will: by consuming energy that is the backbone of my daily routine.
Yet, it’s easy to take for granted the role that energy plays in my routine, as well as how this energy I use is produced by utility companies burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas, which are the largest driver of the carbon pollution causing the climate crisis.
Energy consumption is something people of all ages are becoming more aware of as we observe the acceleration of the climate crisis all around us. This can manifest as a new homeowner whose neighborhood was destroyed by a flood or a child who can’t play in the sprinkler because of water-use restrictions brought on by drought.
If you are living on Earth today, you are experiencing climate deterioration as a reality. Supporting the transition from carbon-polluting fossil fuels to clean energy sources like solar and wind is where the solution starts.
Enter: The Clean Energy Generation
When I think “generation,” I think of the names they go by and the stereotypes they’ve come to represent. From Boomer to Gen Z, these generational brackets all carry with them their own trials and reputations, thought of as separate from each other in both how they perceive the world and how they propose to resolve the world’s issues.
But regardless of our age or which “generation” bracket you or I fall into, being alive right now makes all of us part of one collective group being forced to face the climate crisis. If you’re reading this, this includes you.
When it comes to fighting climate disruption by making massive changes to zero out emissions, there is no clearly delineated “start to finish” generation whose sole issue is to fix it. It’s up to all of us – Boomer, Gen Z, Gen X, Millennial, or otherwise – to face the consequences of over a half-century of intensive climate pollution and rise to the challenge of cleaning up the damage.
Together, we are the Clean Energy Generation.
Why All of Us?
Climate science has made it clear we need to transition, fast, from fossil fuels to clean energy sources like solar and wind that don’t pollute our climate. At this time, the energy we buy to power our homes, cars, and other infrastructure, whether it’s at the gas pump or through a power bill, comes largely from burning fossil fuels, thanks to Big Oil and utility companies that are driving the production of fossil fuels. But individuals like us can call for change in how energy is produced, and we can make changes in our own lives with how we consume energy by starting small.
The age-old assumption is that the responsibility falls on younger people because we are the ones who will have to deal with it the longest. But at 23 years old, I no longer believe only my generation is responsible for “fixing” the planet. Will it still be my job to fix it when I’m older, or will it fall on younger generations over and over again? I asked these questions when I first wondered if I wanted children, knowing how heavy the weight on my back feels. How could I bring someone into this increasingly endangered world who had nothing to do with dismantling it?
Regardless of where you are in your life, we all have the chance to right the wrongs of past generations for the health of future ones, to give people my age and younger the comfort to have children or the ability to live out a long life like older generations have felt able to do.
I’m not saying taking action is easy. Before stepping up to the plate by changing my habits, I first had to change my mindset. Does it really make a difference if my name is on this petition? Am I helping anyone by taking the bus? How am I supposed to afford an EV one day? The climate crisis is so vast that trusting your efficacy in the fight is a battle in itself. It’s a position we’ve all found ourselves in. It is hard to take on that much responsibility.
For me, realizing it is not solely my responsibility gave me the motivation to start doing anything I can, even the smallest individual action. My mom always says she can’t wait to babysit her future grandchild – randomly one day I imagined a world where both she and I fight for that child’s future, because it’s what we both want. Then someday, I and that child will fight for an even healthier environment, and the ball keeps rolling.
Speaking with my mom about the state of the Earth also motivates me. Recently we were chatting after dinner about me writing this post. She told me she feels blindsided, not only by how daunting the climate crisis is, but by younger people telling her it’s her generation’s fault. She wondered how she could have known when information about climate change wasn’t mentioned in school lessons or the news for the majority of her life.
Today, we are so accustomed to “climate change” popping up in lecture halls, science classes, and national legislation that people become more familiar with the concept a lot earlier than they used to. My mom’s generation didn’t have that awareness, in part because humans were just beginning to understand our effects on climate, but also because her generation was intentionally being kept in the dark by Big Oil companies that, apparently like Exxon, knew the damage they were doing.
Everyone is approaching the issue of climate disruption from different places, emotions, and depths of mistrust. What matters is standing together for a common cause.
This means fighting for clean energy, calling out the leadership that is hindering our progress, and making changes toward energy efficiency in our own lives, whatever that may look like for each of us.
What Can It Look Like?
While being part of the “Clean Energy Generation” can look like younger folks spearheading efforts at universities and high schools, it can also start with a family weatherizing their home by sealing leaks and adding solar screens to windows, or retirees writing letters to their senators and sharing their actions with their community.
Examples of the Clean Energy Generation, people like you and me, include:
- Florida students advocating for solar panels
- Georgia elementary saving $6000 yearly thanks to solar panels
- Teenagers organizing youth energy summits
- Parents organizing for climate justice
- Seniors staging sit-ins for climate awareness
I am excited to share in the coming year these stories of people from all generations living their lives today amid rapid climate breakdown, together defining the fate of humanity and the survival of species who share the planet with us.
More people now than ever are deciding to learn how they can be part of the climate solution, no matter how small their actions or advocacy, no matter how young or old. You and I can join them. Together we can be part of the solution – by joining the Clean Energy Generation.