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Jane Fonda a Line 3 Protest

Actress and climate activist Jane Fonda—a supporter of the newly launched group Third Act—joined Indigenous community members for a rally and march against the Line 3 pipeline in Solway, Minnesota on June 7, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Older Adults in Their 'Third Act' Launch New Effort to Save the Planet

"While I'm so glad for the young people who are fighting this climate crisis," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., "I realize that many of us who are now older, in our third act, we're still needed."

Jessica Corbett

While young people around the world have gained attention in recent years with global protests calling for ambitious and immediate action from policymakers to tackle the climate emergency, an older crowd is launching a new organization with that same demand.

"What us elders do with these last decades of ours has never in history been as important. We're needed. Our children need us. The future needs us."
—Jane Fonda, actor and activist

"We're over 60—the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. We have skills, we have resources, we have time—and many of us have kids and grandkids. We also have a history," says the welcome message on the website of the newly launched group, Third Act.

"In our early years we saw remarkable shifts in politics and society; now, in our latter years, we want to see those changes made real and lasting," explains the organization, which is made up of "experienced people working for a fair and stable planet."

Among them is author and activist Bill McKibben, who co-founded the global environmental advocacy group 350.org.

In a series of tweets Thursday, he discussed the launch of not only Third Act but also his Substack newsletter The Crucial Years—which has a free option as well as paid subscriptions, money that McKibben plans to put toward the new group.

McKibben acknowledged that "our generations have done their share of damage; we're on the verge of leaving the world a worse place than we found it."

Third Act's creation comes as the Caldor Fire continues to consume swaths of California and Gulf Coast residents are just beginning to deal with the death and destruction left by Category 4 Hurricane Ida, the remnants of which brought intense rain and catastrophic flooding to the New York City area overnight Wednesday, killing several more people—and all of that is within the United States.

The climate emergency is a global one—illustrated by destructive fires from Australia to Siberia, historic melting of ice sheets, and concerns that Madagascar is on the verge of the first climate-fueled famine. Last month, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned nearly half of the world's children are at "extremely high risk" of facing impacts of the planetary crisis.

UNICEF's warning, as Common Dreams reported, came on the third anniversary of 18-year-old climate campaigner Greta Thunberg's solitary protest outside the Swedish Parliament, which ultimately led to the global Fridays for Future movement, for which millions of schoolchildren have walked out of their classrooms to strike in the streets demanding bold climate action and a habitable future.

As McKibben noted Thursday, Thunberg joined Third Act members for a video introducing the group to the world. The teen emphasized that young people cannot fight for a better world alone, saying that "we need you adults to also take action… we need you to help us."

The video also features 79-year-old Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who celebrates the passionate activism of younger generations while encouraging older people to "make your third act your best act."

In storytelling, the term "third act" typically refers to the section of the narrative that includes the resolution after a major crisis. Some aging adults have approached what are often considered retirement years as "a third act."

"Being several decades into it, I am up close and personal with the third act, and I can see that third acts are really important," says 83-year-old actor and activist Jane Fonda in the video. "Assuming relative good health, this is the time when we're able to shape our legacies and pull all the diverse strands of the first two acts together so they add up to something we can be proud of."

"What us elders do with these last decades of ours has never in history been as important. We're needed. Our children need us. The future needs us," adds Fonda, who partnered with Greenpeace in 2019 to organize Fire Drill Fridays. Noting the "constellation of interrelated crises" the world currently faces, she highlights the urgent need to address the existential threat of the climate crisis with scientifically informed actions.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. was in his 30s when Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana in 2005, leading him to establish the award-winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign. Now in his 50s, the Hip Hop Caucus president and CEO has just watched another powerful storm strike the state.

"While I'm so glad for the young people who are fighting this climate crisis, I realize that many of us who are now older, in our third act, we're still needed," Yearwood says in the video. "We're needed now more than ever for our wisdom, our passion, our love. We're needed because we need everybody right now to fight this climate crisis."

Introducing herself in the video, Robin Wall Kimmerer, an ecologist, writer, and professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, explains that "most importantly, I'm a grandmother, committed to leaving my grandchildren a beautiful Earth to love and care for that is whole and healthy enough that it can love and care for them in return."

"Third Act is a call to action for our generation," Kimmerer says. "It's an invitation to use our skills, our experience earned over a lifetime, on behalf of a just, green future."


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