We all are the Climate Generation – an interview with Lorna Gold

Dr Lorna Gold, climate activist and author of Climate Generation

Friday 24th May is the big day. The day of the second global school strike for climate. With only 1 day to go, the Fridays For Future website lists nearly 1600 events in 118 countries.

In Ireland, the #FridaysForFuture movement was started in Dublin by Dr Lorna Gold, mum, climate activist and author of Climate Generation – Awakening to our children’s future (affiliate link). 

We all are the Climate Generation

Climate Generation – Awakening to our children’s future, by Lorna Gold

Climate Generation really brings home the reality of climate change and what it will mean for our children. Once you read it, you won’t be able to look away any longer. Reading about the climate chaos we’re heading for had me in tears, and reading about what we can do filled me with hope. It is time to rise and roar for climate action, because our lives depend on it.

We all are the climate generation now.

Lorna is adamant that the movement demanding climate action is an intergenerational one – today’s grown-ups can’t leave it to the next generation to solve this crisis. 

In her blog post titled Dear Parents on Planet Earth, she makes a heartfelt plea to parents around the world to get behind the young strikers.

That Friday Jim and I decided we would answer [Greta Thunberg’s] call. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to go on climate strike. We didn’t think for a minute we were “too old”. As parents who care we wanted to be the answer to that call. For me, with young boys, I felt it only right that I should stand on their behalf. After all, it is my own lifestyle, my inaction and my generation that has caused this mess. Sure, my boys will join when they can, but why should they stand in the cold, miss school and shoulder such a heavy burden? When they can’t, I will.

So ahead of the second global day of action, I asked Lorna a few questions about her own awakening to the climate crisis, her activism and her hopes for the future.

When/how did you wake up to the climate emergency?

Lorna Gold – For me the waking up process happened over a number of years, with a few very dramatic moments marking each stage in the process. Through my work with Trócaire , I was well aware of the climate crisis and its impact on people in poorer countries. I knew all the facts and figures and was well involved in policy discussions around what to do. I was even a co-founder of Stop Climate Chaos over ten years ago. I actually thought I was one of the “awake ones”!

However, after becoming a mum, something shifted in me. Climate change moved from being an “out there” issue – one I worked on professionally – to an issue intimately connected to me, my family and our future. That realisation was very tough. I remember one moment in particular when the reality of this became all too clear for me. I was with Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s leading climatologist, at a report launch in the Northern Ireland Assembly. After listening to his overview of climate change, I was overcome with emotion. All I could see was my own boys, now 7 and 9, and their future. I was filled with grief and anger for what the future holds for them. I found myself getting ready to speak to politicians wiping tears from my cheeks.

The climate emergency is about fractured relationships

This growing realisation is fairly stark when it hits you. It can feel like a ton of bricks. Beyond the facts and figures, beyond all the analysis and solutions, the climate emergency is about fractured relationships. One of the most fractured ones is the intergenerational one. The emergency, at its very basis is now about what we, as “grown ups”, are prepared to do to protect our planet for our children.

The movement for climate action is an intergenerational one
Greystones School Strike for Climate, 15th March 2019

What was your initial reaction – anger, fear, despair?

My first reaction was to press snooze and pull the duvet back up. I initially felt this could wait. Moreover, life was easier if I didn’t really allow the full weight of climate change to enter. I tried to keep it at bay and push it away. When I finally let that truth in, I felt angry and confused about what it all meant for me and for us all.

I have taken up residence in the rabbit hole – and I am finding many others there too.

Such is the scale of this new reality it is like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It is very hard to get out and everything can seem strange. Every where you look you start to see signs of a changing climate – and it becomes an inescapable truth. You start to wonder why it is that others cannot see what you see. The evidence is staring us in the face, yet the response is completely mute, especially for busy parents – things need to get done, children need minding, bills need to be paid. In one way I started to resent my knowing about this. Life was certainly a lot simpler in my little bubble of unknowing.

Lorna Gold at the weekly #FridaysForFuture rally in Dublin

Now, however, I feel I live fully in that new reality of acceptance of the science. I have taken up residence in the rabbit hole, so to speak – and I am finding many others there too. Far from being a lonely place, it is occupied by thousands of people who are determined to be honest and start to live in a way somehow closer to the climate reality.

Climate change can often make us feel overwhelmed and helpless. How do you deal with this? What do you do to bounce back?

It is an inescapable fact that when we embrace the magnitude of climate change, and the terrifying reality it represents for us and the planet, it can lead to anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness. The flip side of that is endless activism – get so busy so quickly that you feel you are doing something, even if your actions may not be having any impact at all. This mix of exhaustion and depression is not a good place to be and can quickly lead to burnout. I have had experience of that too.

A couple of things have really helped sustain me through these darker moments. Above all, I have found solace in what I call “embracing the earth”. Simply being outdoors more and making time to cultivate a deep gratitude for the gift that is life nourishes my soul. I am a deeply spiritual person and for me this sense of communion with nature is where I find my God. It is often in those encounters that meaning can return and I refind the energy to move forward.

A prisoner of hope

Similarly, I find tremendous resilience in writing and communicating my feelings. I found the process of writing Climate Generation (affiliate link) cathartic. Somehow putting it out there on paper or into other forms of communication, helps greatly. I have bad days like everyone, but what always drives me on is a desire above all else to do something to protect the planet for our children. For me this makes me what Vaclav Havel called a “prisoner of hope”. I can’t afford to despair, for the sake of the children. Hope becomes a ‘doing word’ – something we build together rather than a feeling.

What role does nature connection, i.e. spending time outdoors, especially as a family, play in fighting climate change?

I feel passionately that cultivating an outdoor culture is absolutely key to fighting climate change, as it solves so many ills in our lives and especially in our children and family lives. The truth is that we are far less likely to destroy something that we love deeply. Cultivating that sense of deep bond and connection in our own children is key to equipping them with the mindset and skills to become ‘earth guardians’.

But it is far more than just simply sending the kids out to play – though there is huge benefit in that too. I have found that when we are outdoors together as a family, for example for a walk in the woods or on a cycle together, we are different together. We are calmer, more connected with each other, and less distracted by technology. We are also less vulnerable to the imposition of marketing, advertising and so on – which is a toxic influence on all our lives.

He was nurtured to be a wild child and now felt he had been caged up.

I would love to see more outdoor education in Ireland – in fact I think it is essential. I was shocked when my son started school to see how little time he spends outdoors. Up until his school years he had been outdoors most of his life, learning about nature, the animals, plants, soil, climbing trees, etc. Then when his formal education started he had to sit on his bottom all day under artificial lights – playing outdoors for a short while (no running of course or climbing the trees in the yard!) walking about on a tarmac car park. He struggled so much to integrate, and no wonder. He was nurtured to be a wild child and now felt he had been caged up in the most unnatural setting designed for adult comfort more than children. I feel this whole approach has to change.

Related / Similaire  Adventures R Us / Des aventures et nous

Greta Thunberg said that “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere” – do you find this to be true? What gives you hope in the face of the climate crisis?

Greta has fast become one of my heroes! I think she is right on the hope front. When you move out of the space of ranting about what is not happening and switch to the mindset of “doing all I can to make it happen”, hope rises up in you.

The most hopeful thing I see is the coming together now of different groups around the idea of #FridaysForFuture started by Greta – and what might emerge from this in a short frame of time. Last December very few people had heard of Greta and nobody in Ireland was coming out on Friday climate protests. Then a few of us came out one Friday in December. By 15th March there were over 15,000 people mobilised in Ireland for a day of action, together with 1.6 million worldwide.

It takes a bit of courage to pick up a placard and get onto the streets – but the fact people are doing that means they too are awake.

When I am on the streets on Fridays I am filled with hope. I may wake up in any mood but as soon as I get out and raise my voice with others hope returns. Each Friday I have no clue who I will meet. But I know that whoever I meet outside Leinster House or in Maynooth Square, they will care enough like me to get out and shout loud. It takes a bit of courage to pick up a placard and get onto the streets – but the fact people are doing that means they too are awake. The momentum for change can grow and become unstoppable. And this gives me tremendous hope.

Four Acorns meet Lorna Gold on one of the #FridaysForFuture protests outside the Dáil

As parents in Ireland, what stops us from taking meaningful climate action?

I think there are many reasons why, but most of all, I don’t think most parents grasp the urgency of change – or fully understand how their actions matter. Our lives are dominated by many things that need to be done – most of which have immediate consequences if we don’t do them (like not paying bills, not feeding the children, not turning up at work).

Climate change is not one of those issues which dominate parents’ lives. On the urgency side, I think that people generally understand this is serious but perhaps don’t realise that scientists have given us a rapidly closing window – two years to peak emissions and then a decade for global emissions to half, then fall to near zero. Parents do not realise this – or the impact failing to act will have on their own children’s futures. This connection is starting, but hasn’t fully come to the surface yet.

Lorna’s hand-drawn CO2 emissions graph – at the moment, we’re heading on the red line: very, very scary indeed

On the action side, I think most parents probably think that their actions are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Given how much cost and effort might be involved, what difference can I make?

As climate change is an issue of collective action, parents are right to question personal behaviour change as the main response: ‘well, me turning off my lights or not going on a flight won’t make a blind bit of difference, so why bother?’ There is a lack of faith in political solutions and in the role businesses can play too. If nobody is setting an example which really shows how change can happen and how their input is needed, then I can see how people feel paralysed.

What kind of future would you like to create for your children? What vision drives you into action?

Like every parent, I want my children to grow up in a peaceful world where we respect nature and each other. I would love them to have the opportunities I have had to explore our planet and see the many wonders and cultures that populate this Earth. I want them to live in a world where they can bring up their own children, if they choose, in relative tranquility. Climate change just happens to be one huge problem standing in the way of that happening right now – and for the coming century.

The future is knocking at the door. Will you answer?




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5 Responses to “We all are the Climate Generation – an interview with Lorna Gold

  • Wow what an inspiring woman & what a great interview, loved reading this! #goinggreen

    • Lorna is fantastic, I totally agree. She’s speaking tonight in Dublin with Naomi Klein, if you happen to be around 😉
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • We need more parents like Lorna. Like Lorna, you, me and every other parent on the planet we all want a safe future for our children yet so many don’t yet realise we all have to make changes. I am currently reading There is No Planet B which shows this is not an impossible ask if we all embrace the relevant changes – it can depress me when I meet people who think I am mad (or see how little out politicians are doing) but I will keep plugging away in my small corner of the internet and hope I can help a few people take those first steps to a better world. Why would any parent not want to do this for their children? Off to follow Lorna on Twitter etc. #GoingGreen

    • It does sometimes feel like we’re preaching into the wind, doesn’t it? Yet I have met so many parents/people in the past year or so who genuinely feel concerned but also helpless. So they keep going as if everything was well with the world. The infamous dissonance. This is what we have to fight, so they can join in with the climate strikes, Extinction Rebellion, etc. Because together we can do this. Together.

  • What an inspiring person. We need more people like her. Thank you for sharing.

    Slightly delayed comment from October #goinggreen

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