Generations Rising: Inspiring Climate Action

by Diana Ellis and Stan Hirst

In the fall of 2018 David Suzuki dropped by the monthly meeting of the Council of Elders in Vancouver, B.C.

Some weeks earlier the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had issued its IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.  The report’s essential messages were being widely circulated. In summary these were that human activities are now estimated to have caused global warming averaging 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels and are expected to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 at current rates of increase. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ around 2050.

David believed that a large segment of Canadian society is now ready for an engagement campaign to create public opinion to force action by the several levels of government. His essential message to the CoE was on the need for urgent and effective action. “We’ve got to get the politicians to put climate first, and this is a federal election year – October 20 is a very important date – we have to DO something!” 

Fast forwarding 4 months to January 31, 2019, found 35 participants and 5 panelists gathered in our first response to David’s call: a salon entitled “Generations Rising: Inspiring Climate Action”.

Four of the panelists were young climate activists, the fifth was a board member of the Jellyfish Project, a non-profit society dedicated to empowering youth in environmental stewardship.  They spoke about organizing climate change actions and their experiences of pulling people and issues together. They recounted their experiences in working on climate action within, against, and around the “System”.

Salon participants were mainly elders and represented a cross-section of citizens concerned about the issues of the day –  environmental conservation, social justice, food security, health advocacy, children’s rights, seniors’ rights and the rights of indigenous people.

The panelists joined the participants to form five groups for interactive discussion on two key questions pertaining to effective and practical climate action:

  • WHAT do we require of federal political parties and our governments in order to ensure that we collectively PUT CLIMATE FIRST?
  • HOW can citizens take action to effectively advocate for a CLIMATE FIRST agenda in all political parties and within the federal government.  How could these actions  work effectively – within the system, – against the system, – around the system?

A description of the salon process and outputs are available elsewhere on this website (go to this link). The summary outputs of the interactive discussion groups are shown below. Participants were required to indicate the urgency of the various cations by assigning them a priority vote (shown below as )


Need to plan just transition (to clean/alternative energy) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to develop clear vision of active just transitions, green jobs, green new deal concept ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to support families during the transition to new energy infrastructure ♦♦♦♦
  • need green new deal, minimum income during energy transition ♦♦♦♦
  • need to have clear climate justice process ♦♦
  • find alternative jobs for people in fossil fuel industry ♦♦
Be truthful, call it a climate change crisis ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to be truthful, identify climate crisis/ be more realistic when it comes to climate action, declare a climate crisis, call it a climate disaster, demand transparency/face responsibility/take action ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to understand what will happen to future generations if politicians don’t listen and act 
Have a Climate Action Plan in place that is accountable, measurable, responsible ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to have a climate action plan with accountability, better measures of success/adopt new metrics/measurement ♦♦♦♦
  • need to understand climate change as business opportunity 
  • develop climate policy market measures, carbon tax/revenue neutral 
  • need to have climate framework in ALL policy making
  • do NOT have a politically motivated climate plan, rather develop a climate consensus
Respect UNDRIP, work with Indigenous People ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to follow UNDRIP, honour commitment to respect Indigenous rights, continued reconciliation
Listen to youth, children ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to use/amplify children’s voices, really listen to youth, support teen challenge to politicians
Educate public about climate change and climate action ♦♦♦♦♦
  • need to provide real climate education, to scale and urgent ♦♦♦
  • need to talk about the true issues at grassroots level, foster talks/town halls
Voting issues ♦♦♦
  • bring in mandatory voting ♦♦
  • voting stations at universities 
Pledge Citizen’s Right to a Healthy Environment ♦♦
  • need to pledge to right to a healthy environment


Actions we can take on WITHIN the system

Engage, get involved, with local political parties ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • participate, get involved at local level party campaigns ♦♦♦♦
  • engage with candidates, advocacy/activism ♦♦♦♦
  • support Green Party agenda
  • influence party delegates at policy conferences
  • quiz political leaders, meet up with politicians at conferences, events 
Speak to candidates/politicians directly about specific Climate Action Plan details ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • ask for the right to a healthy environment, action driven, with cost accounting so that real price of damage done and accountability built in from start, specifics & measurables
Talk to, mentor younger people about issues/voting ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • use/amplify children’s voices ♦♦♦♦
  • talk to younger generation about how to be a voter
  • encourage & mentor young people to run for office
Act as an individual ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • individual actions, consumer less, take responsibility
Write creative handwritten letters ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • write love letters to the planet and give to politicians ♦♦
  • handwritten letter writing on climate action at public ♦♦
Get people voting ♦♦♦♦
  • vote, get others to vote , vote for those with climate plan ♦♦♦♦
  • vote against political parties not listening
Think, do own analysis ♦♦♦♦
  • develop clear vision of just transitions, green new deal concept ♦♦♦♦
  • do policy analysis – what is blocking and supporting action on issues identify roadblocks, name and shame

Actions we can take on AGAINST the system

Get involved in civil disobedience, strikes ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Strike for climate demonstrations ♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Civil disobedience-shutdowns, sit-ins, disruptions ♦♦♦♦
  • Support Greta Thunberg and school strikes ♦♦
Support other groups in actions ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • solidarity with front line movements and communities, be a body, show up at marches ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • support grassroots action with indigenous groups
  • need to change the system

Actions we can take on AROUND the system

Actively communicate/engage/collaborate with others   ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • blog, speak out, start a conversation, use social media, video clips ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • collaborate/reach out to environmental community/support groups doing good stuff ♦♦♦♦
  • media/art education ♦♦
  • use severe weather events & environmental emergencies as eye openers to create awareness
Other ♦♦♦♦
  • learn about building emotional resilience/strengthen the community ♦♦
  • look at our own impact on environment, city and BC legislation
  • hold climate conversations to prevent burnout in activists 


  • stop subsidizing fossil fuels ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • honour climate change commitments already made ♦♦♦♦
  • need to invest in clean energy ♦♦♦♦
  • need to tax cost of flying (except for isolated and fly-in communities) ♦♦
  • need to reject ‘double think’ that pipelines and climate action are compatible ♦♦
  • need to support more public transportation 
  • price on pollution  
  • loans for mid-cap projects 
  • progressive income tax 
  • figure out how to use pipeline for positive change & just transition 
  • extractive industries must go 




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