top of page

Having the Climate Talk with Your Parents

Talking politics with our parents – it’s a struggle we’ve all had to deal with. Whether it’s addressing women’s rights, arguing about racial injustice or disputing social inequality, it’s rarely an easy task.

Sometimes, I think that older generations got the easy way out with only one awkward topic to discuss with their parents.

We, on the other hand, are the ones that have to champion social and political change, and to call our families out on their problematic beliefs. Because if we don’t, it’s on us to live with the consequences.

Few topics demonstrate this generational gap better than environmentalism. Statistics show that while 70% of young people worry about climate change, this number drops down to just about 56% for people over 55.

The good news is that intergenerational learning – that is, the transfer of knowledge from children to parents – seems to be one of the most effective ways to counter this dynamic.

Even better, the positive impact of children talking about the environment seems to be the strongest among male and conservative parents (who are also the group with the lowest level of environmental concern).

While this sounds promising, one important question remains – namely, how exactly do we go about discussing climate change with our families? The answer to this will vary greatly per person, as we all come from different backgrounds – I have friends that grew up in conservative households, as well as ones whose parents do yoga and eat vegan.

Even so, most of us will invariably have the topic of environmentalism come up at the dinner table at some point. It might be because our parents are climate change non-believers, or just because they are woefully misguided in their efforts – like my mom, when she informed me that her and my father are practically vegetarians now... all the while eating her fourth beef patty of that week.

Take the roundabout way

This first approach is especially useful when dealing with parents that are either new or particularly averse to the idea of environmentalism.

When talking to senior family members, using highly politicized terms such as ‘climate change’ can make them defensive before you’ve even had the chance to make your point. People’s views on loaded topics such as climate change are often shaped by deep-rooted beliefs such as (conservative) political ideology, culture and socio-economic background.