Graying Green

Mick Smyer Graying Green

Graying Green: Climate Action for an Aging World

Graying Green links two global patterns: population aging and climate change.  The Graying Green project works with climate communicators, climate scientists, community and business leaders to make older people more visible, valued and effective on climate action.  Older adults are not solely victims of climate change; they are also potential leaders of climate action.  Older adults are important for developmental and political reasons.

Developmentally, older adults are naturally concerned with their legacy and with the well-being of successive generations.  Politically, older adults can be potential thought leaders:  in developed countries, they vote disproportionately more than other age groups; in traditional societies, they are often revered as sources of wisdom.  In the United States, older adults’ voting rates have increased over the last 40 years while younger voters’ participation has decreased.

Recent research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the Pew Research Center found that Baby Boomers are more concerned about climate change than Millenials.  The challenge is how to move the Boomers from anxiety to action to habit on climate change.

The Graying Green project leverages my experience in gerontology and in international consultation to collaborate on developing, implementing, and evaluating effective climate action strategies for an aging world.

In 2015-16, the Graying Green project took me to Yale University, the Australian National University, and Stanford University to engage climate communicators and climate scientists in developing effective outreach strategies for older adults and for multi-generational audiences.  In addition, during that year I consulted with scientists at the U of Queensland, U. of Melbourne, Monash U., U of Colorado, Oregon State University and Cornell University in the development of approaches for leveraging the untapped climate resource of older adults.

In 2016-17, I was a Visiting Professor and Fellow in Civic Innovation at the Stanford School of Design, where I applied design concepts and practices to the Graying Green project.  I also worked with a research team including colleagues from Columbia University, U. of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and the U. of Queensland to assess the impact of interventions to accelerate older adults’ and younger adults’ climate action.

In 2017-18, I have worked with Elders Climate Action and the Massachusetts United Church of Christ (Congregational)to bring this approach to the Boston area.  In addition, I have presented more than two dozen workshops, webinars, and presentations in the United States and Australia, moving hundreds of people from anxiety to action to habit on climate issues.

A synopsis of the rationale behind Graying Green can be found here . A fuller description of the psychology of climate action behind Graying Green can be found here