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Intergenerational Care

How can we think and relate better between generations in the midst of the climate crisis? The Brundtland commission formulated sustainable development as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (UN 1987, 41).

How can we think and relate better between generations in the midst of the climate crisis?

The Brundtland commission formulated sustainable development as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (UN 1987, 41).

Intra-generational and Inter-generational Care

It is important how we treat those most exposed to the climate crisis, both now and also in relation to emerging generations. There are two terms that can be useful to start such discussions on how to recognize vulnerability, but also to practice justice and care over time. First, the term intra-generational care that describes care between people living within present generations (intra means within). Following on from this, intra-generational justice can be used to discuss the unfair impact of climate change on exposed communities living now.

Secondly, the term inter-generational care captures relations between people over time (inter means between).

To study inter-generational justice means to engage in the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable people in future generations. However, this separation can also be regarded as creating a binary opposition between past, present and emerging generations. One way forward is to acknowledge how more-than-human generations are tied together over time and how they may be captured in intra-generational care.

We are all ‘ancestors to be’

Against this background, people living in the world today can see themselves as “ancestors to be” for several emerging generations. This makes clear the need to think and act to improve the living conditions for several generations ahead.

This means that there are several questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • Are we good ancestors?
  • How can we think and relate better across time?
  • How can we practice care within and between more-than-human generations?

These are questions about coordinating socially with processes and people over time. They are about identifying actions we need to take today and relations we need to take care of so as to act justly towards present and future generations.

Some ways of doing this are to work with:

  • Deep time interventions, meaning paying attention to how actions here and now territorialise futures and build benevolent or malevolent relations with future generations.
  • Cathedral thinking, meaning working for something that one will never see the full rewards of.

This article draws on:

Bastian, M. 2017. Liberating Clocks: Exploring other possible futures. In Elisa Felicitas Arias, Ludwig Combrinck, Pavel Gabor, Catherine Hohenkerk, P. Kenneth Seidelmann (eds.) Proceedings of the Science of Time Conference. Springer, (Space Science and Astrophysics Proceedings), 369-378.

Fredengren, C. & Åsberg, C. 2020. Checking in with Deep Time. In Harrison, R. & Sterling, C. (eds) Deterritorializing the Future: Heritage in, of and after the Anthropocene. London, UK: Open Humanities Press.

Krznaric, T. 2020. The Good Ancestor. How to think long term in a short-term world. London. WH Allen

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Taking on the Climate Crisis with Social Change

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