Quantcast
Climate

David Suzuki: 'Young People Have the Power to Rally Others to Create Positive Change'

When she was just 12 years old, my daughter Severn gave a speech at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. She spoke with such conviction that delegates were moved to tears. It was one of my proudest moments as a father. More than 20 years later, Severn is the mother of two young children, and the video of her speech is still making the rounds, inspiring people around the world. Its popularity speaks to the power the young have to affect the world’s most pressing issues.

More than half the world’s population is under 30, a demographic now at the forefront of international decision-making and some of Canada’s most powerful environmental changes. Across the nation, youth are thinking critically about how we can become better stewards of our vast landscapes and spectacular wildlife and protect the air, water, soil and diversity of nature that keep us healthy and alive. They’re standing up for strong environmental protection and a saner approach to resource management in their own communities.

Take Halifax resident Stephen Thomas, an engineer in his 20s. He’s been recognized as a driving force for our nation’s clean energy future. If You Build It, a project he co-founded, mobilizes volunteers to construct renewable energy projects, including wind turbines and solar-powered generators. He’s also catalyzed large-scale, community-owned wind projects in Nova Scotia and spearheaded Dalhousie University’s student campaign for fossil fuel divestment.

Vanessa Gray, a 22-year-old member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, mobilized other young people to campaign against Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline proposal to transport oilsands bitumen through Sarnia, Ontario, to Montreal for export. She continues to speak out about refinery pollution and host “toxic tours” of Canada’s Chemical Valley, where 63 petrochemical plants surround her community.

Some young leaders are taking up the David Suzuki Foundation’s call to support the right to a healthy environment in their towns. In December, after attending a Foundation Blue Dot Tour event, 10-year-old Victoria resident Rupert Yakelashek led a successful charge to have his city adopt a declaration giving citizens the right to clean air, water and food, and to participate in decisions that affect their environment.

Tens of thousands of young people took part in the People's Climate March in New York City last September.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a 13-year-old from B.C.’s Tla'Amin First Nation, followed a path similar to my daughter’s, speaking at the UN Rio +20 conference in 2012 when she was just 11. She’s also gaining recognition as the visionary behind the Salish Sea Youth Foundation and for speaking, writing and singing in defense of a healthy future for animals, humans, plants and ecosystems. She incorporates environmental messages into her songs, as she did on the Blue Dot Tour. “In my culture it’s a fact, and an understanding of life, that everything is connected, and we were put on this earth to be stewards and caretakers of the environment,” she writes.

Young leaders are also at the forefront of Idle No More, one of the largest Indigenous mass movements in Canadian history. What began in 2012 as teach-ins in Saskatchewan to protest parliamentary bills that would erode Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections has changed the social and political landscape of Canada.

These young environmental champions share a commitment to their communities and to the world. They know that young people have the power to rally others to create positive change. And when people gather around a common cause, magic happens.

Although many young leaders aren’t yet old enough to vote, they’ll be left to clean up messes from decisions made today. We owe it to them to think more carefully about the world we want to leave to their generation.

National non-profit The Starfish Canada, co-founded by David Suzuki Foundation public engagement specialist Kyle Empringham, celebrates young people with its Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 program. Every year, 25 youth are recognized for their efforts to create environmental change. The group recognized is diverse, from community gardeners and outdoor recreationists to scientists and advocates. Thanks to them, the program continues to showcase positive change across the country.

If you know a young leader who deserves national recognition, nominate him or her for The Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25. It could help inspire others to change the world.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Legendary Iditarod Sled Dog Race Moved North As Alaska Deals With Climate Change

8 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Climate Movement in 2015

Global Divestment Day: A Huge Success

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Pexels

Cosmos Offers Clues to the Fate of Humans on Earth

By Marlene Cimons

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees climate change through a cosmic lens. He believes our present civilization isn't the first to burn up its resources—and won't be the last. Moreover, he thinks it's possible the same burnout fate already might have befallen alien worlds. That's why he says the current conversation about climate change is all wrong. "We shouldn't be talking about saving the planet, because the Earth will go on without us," he said. "We should be talking about saving ourselves."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Chicago skyline on April 20, 2017. Chris Favero / CC BY-SA 2.0

Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth

By Dipika Kadaba

The amount of artificial lighting is steadily increasing every year around the planet. It's a cause for celebration in remote villages in Africa and the Indian sub-continent that recently gained access to electricity for the first time, but it is also harming the health and well-being of residents of megacities elsewhere that continue to get bigger and brighter every year.

Health impacts of this artificial illumination after daylight hours range from depression to cancer, including a range of sleep disorders.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Scott Pruitt speaking at meeting at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 17. Lance Cheung / USDA

Breaking: Sierra Club Demands Pruitt’s Emails After Only 1 Disclosed by EPA

As part of ongoing litigation, the Sierra Club has demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search Scott Pruitt's personal email accounts for work-related emails, or certify clearly and definitively that the administrator has never used personal email for work purposes. The demand comes on the heels of a successfully litigated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email and other communications with all persons and parties outside the executive branch. These facts were first reported in Politico early this morning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!