Grandparents for the climate, fighting “for grandchildren all over the world”

“We are warmer than the climate”, “There is a fire on the lake!”, “To shop or be cooked, you must choose” … These slogans are associated with young militant mouths, with this generation of teenagers who have invaded thousands of the streets of Lausanne and Geneva in 2019. However, they are not the only ones singing them, nor do they worry about the future of the planet. The association Grands-Parents pour le climat has also fought for ecological change since 2014 – even before the Paris COP managed to make people disappointed.

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If these grandparents ring the alarm bell, it is not directly to their own advantage, those who have already reached the last stage of retirement, but for their grandchildren, whose future has not yet been determined. As is often the case, the inspiration is Scandinavian. The stream was born in Norway in 2007 before spreading to Sweden, Greta Thunberg’s country, then to Belgium, the USA and Canada.

Since 2014, Swiss seniors have also been shouting about the climate crisis. It all started with “The letter from the world’s grandchildren to those over 60”, published in The Sustainable Review at the end of 2012. Challenged by the text, about forty people met in Lausanne to take full advantage of these concerns. A few months later, in September 2014, the basic text, the statutes of the grandparents for the climate as well as the first committee is born. Since then, their ranks have continued to swell. The association multiplies the sections throughout French-speaking Switzerland and even extends across the Sarine this year.

The glorious imprints of the thirties

Greenhouse effect, fracking [technique d’extraction de ressources], anthropocene … For a long time, this vocabulary was unknown at best, misunderstood at worst by people born before 1950 – those whose youth were shaken by the consumer discourse of the post-war boom, where progress, accumulation and material comfort were one. Today, some grandparents are turning things around. They embrace these new words and look to the future. As the association’s articles of association remind us: “Age gives us rights, places, discounts, sometimes even respect. Faced with the climate crisis, we also recognize our duties.

Marc Treboux is the former cantonal chemist of Neuchâtel. At the urging of a friend, he joined the movement to sit on the association’s scientific council, “in the company of Jacques Dubochet and Martine Rebetez,” he lights up. Today, Marc Treboux coordinates the Bejune section (Jura Arc and Neuchâtel) of the movement, which brings together about thirty members. Like the others, the regional branch is growing “to such an extent that it will soon be split in two”.

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For this eighty-eight-year-old man, sensitivity to climate issues is not new, only the urgency has become more urgent: “As early as 1968, the Rome report showed that our function led us to a stalemate. At that time, it was announced for 2050. We thought we had a good time … Half a century later, we have not taken a step towards a more sustainable society.

The ghost of dictatorship

Are they the ones still closing their ears? Many older people, “but also young people”, still do not hear the howling sirens of science. “It’s a little alarming, but whether they like it or not, our civilization, as we know it, will collapse in the coming decades. From today, they must think of the model to succeed the present. Because of lack of expectation is “the risk of us falling into a dictatorial and slavery society is significant”.

Another category of people who are hard to convince: the knights of green capitalism. “Although they understand that we live in a world of limited resources, many people in my generation believe in new energy solutions, in rescue through technology. These, hard to get them to consider another model using a revolution”, laments the former chemist.This revolution passes through the street, he and his companions do not hesitate to knock on the sidewalk. “We are not wise old carpets in their corner. True wisdom is precisely to be on the street with young people.

When the little hummingbird thinks big

Laurence Martin has been there since the movement was founded in 2014. Today, she is 77 years co-chair of it nationwide. “Death, I thought about it a lot. I have problems with the followers of” after me the flood “. We continue in our descendants, she believes. I do not want to be in their place … It is very worrying not to be able to project self.

Like most of the other members, Laurence Martin is inspired by Pierre Rabhi and the parable of the hummingbird: those about small gestures, each on its own scale. “But beyond this speech, today we are trying to have a direct impact on the political sphere,” the activist said.

From their house in Saint-Ursanne, the Jura couple Jean-Marc and Christiane Comment share this vision centered on individual actions. “Admittedly, politics structures the world, but the transition must also go through concrete things. Some time ago, we handed out free hand-sewn bags in front of a large area that people could put their vegetables in. Last week, a class of kids did exactly the same as us. The transfer through education is important, the couple explains. We are often told, “It would be nice to have grandparents like you.” Some do not understand that their grandchildren give up their studies to demonstrate … “

For its part, Virginia Halecka Cattin, also a member of the Bejune section, uses more crude terms, in line with the Extinction Rebellion. In 2013, this former architect of Argentine origin was the origin of a civic movement, which resulted in a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Neuchâtel. Since this struggle, she has completely put herself in the service of ecological conversion. “Our industrial civilization is heading into a stalemate. Even wars are being declared for business. And in that, our institutions are leading us nowhere … It’s all democracy that needs to be redefined,” argues the resident of Noiraigue.

“We burned something, oil”

The five members of the Bejune section have grandchildren between 4 months and 22 years. Would they be engaged if they did not have one? “Without a doubt. It is for the grandchildren of the whole world that we are fighting,” they reply in unison. But what about their engine? To blame, the shame of having helped to destroy the ecosystem? The question seems almost tiring as it has already been asked.

“I do not feel so much shame,” explains Marc Treboux. There is no point in telling people that they should have done otherwise. Better to make them aware of what needs to be done. “Laurence Martin also denies guilt.” Of course we were caught up in a whole system. With my husband we made exciting trips to the US, Peru, India, Cameroon … We burned But again, we were convinced that the authorities would do the right thing. ”

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As for the convergence of the struggles that the strike demanded for the future, the views are also there … just divergent. Where Marc Treboux and Laurence Martin prefer to focus their efforts on “climate priority”, Virginia Halecka Cattin wants to gather all the “rebellious energy possible”. But the differences in visions, “that’s exactly what makes our movement rich,” concludes the latter. We are not little soldiers. ”

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