I’ve been in more protests in the last two years than my entire life, even as a lawyer and self-proclaimed activist. The reason? My Gen Z kids.
First it was March for Our Lives in 2018, a march against gun violence after the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Then there was the March for Science and the Women’s March. In the fall of 2019, my kids recruited me to participate in the Greta-inspired climate march. During the midst of a global pandemic in June 2020, we protested with 5,000 other citizens at the Black Lives Matter rally in our small town of Bozeman, Montana.
These kids — and their entire Generation Z (those born after 1997) — are hurting. They experience anxiety and depression at higher rates than previous generations. They know we are running out of time.
The term for what they’re feeling is “eco-anxiety.”
New York Times magazine reporter Brooke Jarvis addresses the increasing rates of depression and anxiety in Gen Z in her recent piece “Teenagers at the End of the World.” Kids aren’t caught up in the details about global warming or distracted by the climate deniers and charts and graphs. They see the hurricanes, sea-level rise, and other extreme weather events. Gen Z embraces the precautionary principle and knows that the pandemic has upended and unveiled the many lies of society. Although they believe in action and deeply care about each other and the future, they need our help.
Here are 5 ways we can help Gen Z and create a more positive future:
1. Talk to them about climate change solutions
Start with Project Drawdown. This excellent book is beautifully designed and offers positive, forward-looking solutions. It makes the case that we already have the technology to solve the climate crisis, we just need the political will. Individual action is important but we must have systemic change, including shareholder actions, company sustainability programs, government supported Renewable Portfolio Standards, and green jobs.
2. Have them call or write a snail mail letter to their member of Congress
This strategy works. These communications matter. Gen Z may not know that there are other Gen Z staffers in Congressional offices whose job it is to answer the mail. Seriously, these staffers advise members of Congress on responses to constituent mail and they monitor the number of letters coming in and on what issues. These days letters are rare and definitely get more attention more than emails.