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"There's a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn't change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can't get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding. But you don't ever let go of the thread." William Stafford

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7-Generation GTB is growing a metaphorical Tree of Life through social and ecological regeneration for ecopsychosocial wellbeing (people, community, planet). The underlying dynamics are intergenerational and bioregional.

The photo above is of a White Pine, over 120 years old, in the GTB (Greater Tkaronto Bioregion). Where do you think it's best to plant a young tree: an open field or near old-growth forest?

Ecologists have found a young tree grows better when it's planted in an area with older trees. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by former trees and implant themselves more deeply. Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to one another, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. It's through this powerful dynamic between younger and older trees that an entire ecosystem is transformed. Trees communicate with one another, stronger trees share resources with weaker ones, and the whole forest becomes healthier.

Generations need each other, and we all benefit when they are intertwined.


Generations (Re)United

In a deeply age-segregated society – children in schools, older adults clustered in retirement sites – we're (re)uniting generations in support of each other and to mobilize intergenerativity.

Intergenerational connections are valuable in themselves; young and old can help each other's wellbeing. There are opportunities hidden in plain sight.

But there's more to the intergenerational dynamic than mutual support and wellbeing.

In some Indigenous cultures there's an understanding that, if you want to get something done, you bring together a "fired-up youth with a feisty granny." Young and old balance each other and become a formidable force. Science supports this idea. Some brain research indicates that neuroplasticity slows significantly in your mid 20s and then ramps up again after 50 years of age. That means if you want creative innovation, your best bet is those two age groups – even better combined.

These relationships across generations aren't about "buddies" or "mentorship." It's more along the lines of what Indigenous academic and author Tyson Yunkaporta calls "us-two." This is the dual first person, a coming together in a profound way through relationship. Says Yunkaporta, "Approaches to complex challenges take many dissimilar minds and points of view to design, so we have to do that together, linking up with as many other us-twos as we can to form networks of dynamic interaction, especially across generations."

Generations enable us to touch time in a very personal and profound way. This is a vital human connection for healthy psychosocial development and ecocultural wisdom. Our understanding and experience of time fundamentally influences how we think and act. Anthropologist Margaret Mead asserted that "connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of nations."


Connecting Young and Old We often praise the young, saying "the future is in good hands." The future isn't in the hands of the young. It's in all our hands, right now. The young bring energetic potential, and the old lived experience. One without the other is only one side of the coin.

Says educator and systems thinker Nora Bateson, "The future lies in the relationship between the generations. What kind of education will they need? And how can we as adults open our minds to thinking in new ways with them? Intergenerational learning is not a new project, it's as ancient as time."

Can young and old create a meaning-making bridge across generations into the future? "Much of today's media coverage on the climate is fixated on youth movements, but handing over the reins to untrained and untested youth risks wasting the progress and learnings painfully built over decades. Youth activists and old-hands need to find a way to build intergenerational movements that integrate the skills and passions of both groups… Campaigns that involve activists of several generations hold an advantage."

Because the two ends of the age spectrum are closer to birth and death (a beginning and an end), more vulnerable, and less invested in the status quo, young and old can be truth-tellers. They remind us, show us what really matters, often simply by being.

Generations working together can become a kind of "super organism." The two ends of the age spectrum can effectively capture the attention of middle generations. For example, a team made up of a high school student and an older adult doing energy audits together in homes has been shown to be more effective in prompting home owners to make changes.

Social change research has several examples of the young influencing adults for societal shifts, like the use of seat belts and the social acceptability of smoking. Recent research shows children can shift adult attitudes on climate change. The results suggest that "conversations between generations may be an effective starting point in combating the effects of a warming environment. This model of intergenerational learning provides a dual benefit. [It prepares] kids for the future since they're going to deal with the brunt of climate change's impact. And it empowers them to help make a difference on the issue now by providing them a structure to have conversations with older generations to bring us together to work on climate change… If we can promote this community-building and conversation-building on climate change, we can come together and work together."
Don Jesus and Elise
This can start with something as simple as an elder and a young child planting together. Shares Joe Brewer, "Perhaps the most important community support we have here in Barichara is the elders who care for the forest… [As Don Jesus and my daughter Elise planted a cactus], we were immersed in a cultural structure of exchange between an elder and a child… We were immersed within a living metaphor – the elders standing over our children and guiding them into a safer future… Find your elders. BE an elder. Nurture connection between children and elders."

We're nurturing intergenerational learning and action through the School Community Network.

The intergenerational dynamic underlies all of the 7-Generation GTB work. We're working toward ecopsychosocial wellbeing in lifetimes across generations. #ChangeTheStory.