Wings of Change
Written by Robin Tress
Over the last few weeks, myself and other CYDers have been holding workshops in elementary and high school classrooms in Halifax, Ottawa, and Gatineau. In these workshops we talked about climate change causes, problems, and solutions. At the end of the workshops, students wrote or drew their visions of a greener future on fabric panels that we later used to create a giant bird puppet that we´re going to use for a few actions here in Cancun. The point of these workshops was to get kids thinking about what they want their future to look like, and to see that their voices can be heard.
I think that these workshops had a huge impact on most of the kids, because climate change is a really huge issue and it´s not dealt with in most public school curricula. In one grade 7 class that I spoke to at Highland Park Junior High in Halifax, NS, I remember one particularly amazing kid. When we started talking about ocean acidification, he raised his hand and asked about a theory he had heard of a few years ago about how the earth is a self-regulating organism. Any biology afficianados out there will know that he was talking about the Gaia Hypothesis. Obviously, this kid was not your average 13-year-old, and he continued to prove that throughout the rest of the workshop.
Near the end of our presentation, we showed the trailer to H2Oil. The not-so-average kid looked shocked. He sat with a look of horror on his face during the whole clip. As soon as the film ended his hand shot into the air, and he said, “So you´re trying to tell me that there are huge ponds of toxic goo in Alberta, and the toxic stuff is leaking into the rivers, and the people are getting sick, and the fish have 3 eyes, and part of this is funded by the government!”
Shocked by his ability to sum up a pretty complex issue so clearly, I simply said, “yes, that´s pretty much what´s going on. “
He said, “And everyone knows about this!?” I nodded. “So if the government is paying for this, that means taxpayers are paying for this. That means my parents are paying for this.” I nodded. “But that doesn´t make any sense, why would they do that!?” The only answer I could give is the one no one likes to hear: money. “Some people make a lot of money off of those ponds of toxic goo,” I said. Not surprisingly, he did not look at all relieved or reassured.
After the video, which I have to admit puts a lump in my throat, the kids really enjoyed colouring the fabric ´feathers´with their visions of a cleaner future. Some messages were simple:´I want a clean harbour´, or ´use more windmills and less coal´. Some were elaborate drawings of buildings surrounded by tall trees or with solar panels on the roof.
I am so impressed with these kids abilities to tie brand new knowledge about widespread effects of climate change to things in their lives. I suppose the whole point of this story is that the world’s young generations are capable of solving some of the most complex problems, as long as we give them to resources they need to solve them. We must come to terms with the fact that future generations will be heavily effected by the actions of the present. We must acknowledge that they have the ability to solve our crisis, if only we leave them the resources to do so.