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Clean energy advocacy – a missing generation?

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on November 10, 2011

One last thought on last Sunday’s White House demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. It has to do with the missing generation.

As I commented yesterday, at least half of the demonstrators looked, to me, to be somewhere in their 20s. There was also a good turnout of older folks, say ages 50-something and up. But the middle generation, the folks in their 30s and 40s, seemed to be missing.  Where were they?

Of course, it’s not like they weren’t there at all. In fact, when we ended up linking arms, I was coincidentally sandwiched between two people who both looked to be part of that demographic. So I took advantage of the situation to conduct a little focus group of two.

To my right was a woman from Virginia. She gave me clue number 1: the mention that in order to come to the demonstration, she had had to line up a babysitter to take her daughter to her ballet lesson.

To my left, a young-ish (but not that young) human rights lawyer. He said that many of his friends, in their early 40s, waited to have kids and are now the parents of toddlers. They’re caught up in the busy lives and programmed activities of their young children.

I am not suggesting that folks need to bring their little ones to a four-hour rally. That requires a daunting degree of logistical preparation, patience and energy. To say nothing of working bathrooms.

No, the lesson is more that street demonstrations – and other forms of in-person participation – may not be forms of activism that mesh easily with the lifestyle of people with children. 

I raise this in part because it echoes an issue facing Physicians for Social Responsibility. Many of our activists are either medical students, or health professionals well advanced in their lives and careers.  Finding a way to incorporate that middle generation is a challenge to us. 

Anyone have any good ideas?

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