Blog Post

Renewable Vibes > News > Enviroment > Meet the Climate Grannies – a group of determined individuals who are willing to go to any lengths to safeguard the future of their grandchildren.

Meet the Climate Grannies – a group of determined individuals who are willing to go to any lengths to safeguard the future of their grandchildren.

Hazel Chandler was at home caring for her son when she stumbled upon a document in 1969 that outlined the dire consequences of burning fossil fuels for the planet. Although she can’t recall who gave her the report, the moment left a lasting impression on her. As she read through the list of impending climate disasters, she looked down at her nursing baby and felt overcome with dread.

In that moment, Chandler resolved to take action. Throughout her life, she has been involved in various activist movements, including protests against the Vietnam War, advocacy for civil rights and women’s rights, and support for environmental causes. She actively participated in letter-writing campaigns and organized efforts to lobby legislators in support of crucial environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, which were passed in 1970 and 1972, respectively. Chandler even helped plan events for the first Earth Day in 1970 at the child care center where she worked.

Now, at the age of 78, Chandler is more engaged than ever. In 2015, she started volunteering with Elder Climate Action, an organization that mobilizes older people to fight for the environment. She eventually became a consultant for the Union for Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on science. Currently, she is the Arizona field coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. In this role, Chandler rallies volunteers to take action on climate and environmental justice issues, encouraging residents to testify and meet with lawmakers.

Her motivation remains unchanged after all these years. Chandler wants to be able to look her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and children in the eye and say that she did everything within her power to protect them. She feels a deep responsibility to help move society forward in addressing the climate crisis.

Chandler is part of a largely unrecognized group within the climate movement in the United States known as the climate grannies. These older women, including notable figures like Jane Fonda, bring decades of activism experience to their efforts in pressuring the government and corporations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Women, in general, make up 61 percent of climate activists today, a significant shift from the historically male-dominated environmental movement. The average age of climate activists is 52, with 24 percent being 69 or older.

This gender shift in climate activism can be attributed, in part, to mass demonstrations and protests that emerged in response to former President Donald Trump. The Women’s March and the subsequent engagement of women in various leadership roles have played a significant role in shaping the movement. Women are now more engaged and more likely to be leaders, challenging the historically male-dominated environmental arena.

This trend is also reflected in voter patterns. Data from the Environmental Voter Project, a nonpartisan organization focused on mobilizing climate voters, shows that after Generation Z, people aged 65 and older represent the second-largest climate voter group. Older women, in particular, are more likely than older men to prioritize climate issues when voting. In Arizona, where Chandler resides, older climate voters make up a substantial portion of registered voters, with the potential to sway election outcomes.

Some of these climate grannies have formed organizations specifically geared towards mobilizing older women. For example, 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations was established in California in 2016. This group, which includes all older women, not just literal grandmothers, focuses on climate justice and supports Indigenous-led causes in the Bay Area. They participate in protests, collaborate with other activist groups, and engage in various forms of activism to combat climate change.

For many of these activists, community and the sense of agency derived from taking action are vital. The work not only helps them cope with the despair caused by the multiple crises the world faces but also fosters connections with like-minded individuals who share their values and commitments. Protecting the younger generation, both from the threats of the climate crisis and within activist spaces, is a central focus for these climate grannies.

Another influential figure in the fight against climate change is Pennie Opal Plant, an Indigenous grandmother and activist. Plant co-founded Idle No More SF Bay, an organization that originated in solidarity with First Nations women in Canada defending treaty rights and protecting the environment. Plant’s work emphasizes the importance of ensuring a future for the next seven generations, drawing on Indigenous principles.

The collaboration between groups like 1000 Grandmothers and the Society of Fearless Grandmothers exemplifies the intersectional nature of climate activism. However, the movement still has work to do in terms of diversifying its membership. While people of color are mobilizing, their activism often focuses on climate justice and systemic racism rather than climate change specifically. Bridging this gap is crucial for a more inclusive and effective climate movement.

Many of the older activists see their work on climate issues as a way to rectify historical wrongs committed by their generation. They recognize the deep impact of resource extraction, slavery, and genocide in shaping the current climate crisis. By engaging in climate activism, they aim to live a different kind of life on this planet, rooted in moral responsibility, care, reciprocity, and interconnection.

Kathleen Sullivan, an organizer with Third Act, a national organization mobilizing people over 60 for climate action, feels a moral obligation to contribute to the cause. She believes that engaging in climate activism is a way to be in line with her values and ideals, and it brings her joy and solidarity with others who share similar desires.

As climate grannies continue to make their mark on the climate movement, their experience, passion, and dedication provide a powerful force for change. They are determined to protect future generations and ensure a more sustainable and just world.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *