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VA Environmental Group Utilizes Elder Activists' Strengths


Tuesday, November 29, 2022   

This story is based on original reporting by Elizabeth McGowan for Energy News Network, and is part of the Solutions Journalism Network-Public News Service Collaboration

An environmental advocacy group in Virginia has been working to bridge generational gaps. Third Act Virginia began as a group of elder climate activists who found the third act of their lives as part of the fight against climate change. Originally called Elderpower, the group merged with the national climate change advocacy group Third Act.

Bill Muth, co-coordinator of Third Act Virginia, has been fighting for a better environment for years. Recently, he has been working with kids from Open High School and finds empowerment from watching these kids turn their anger into activism.

"It's a very complicated emotional thing to move to activism," Muth said. "You have to first get in touch with your grief and your anger, and then you have to transform it somehow. And, we're not good at that. We're not good at emotions at all. And I'm not talking about kids, I'm talking about us, adults."

One of the core challenges has been making change happen. With the campaigns for banks to put funding toward climate programs, the group was not getting as many signatures as they thought they would. Another issue has been getting people to understand what climate change is, as some people feel it's such a broad topic. In spite of this, Third Act Virginia has been successful since they were one group that got the city of Richmond to declare a climate emergency.

Given his long experience with climate advocacy, Muth has found young people are not necessarily interested in advice from older generations. Instead, young climate activists just want to be heard.

"They want space and resources to be heard," Muth said. They want to be able to go into City Hall and be heard. They want to know when there's new construction happening in their neighborhoods well in advance so they can review the potential impacts."

He is proud of the work young activists are doing and regrets how the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed their work. But, as the world adjusts to life with COVID, he finds activists are working to make up for lost time. Muth added he does not feel he has to inspire younger activists, but he can find people willing to join their cause and help them find resources.

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