Young & Future Generations — Halifax to Cancun

Young people from around the world are working together today to send our nations’ leaders a message: we’re demanding international cooperation and action on climate change, and we’re armed with solutions.

Today is Young and Future Generations Day, an annual event at the UNFCCC meetings which recognizes the importance of the youth voice in a set of negotiations that are determining our future.

The Canadian Youth Delegation collaborated with youth from the United States and South Asia on a side event this morning: Youth Perspectives on Climate Change, Local Solutions and Global Actions. Audrey and Malcolm represented the CYD, and focused on youth climate action in Canada, highlighting both local and global climate impacts, problems and solutions.

Audrey also presented at a press conference that explored youth research on climate change solutions. I think that this is a great way to encourage action from our governments. We can do more than just ask for change, we can show them how it’s possible.

These events are incredibly important; they allow us to present not our point of view on climate change, but our solutions to negotiators and observers from around the world. That capacity building across borders is crucial. I this it also highlights that we are not asking anything unreasonable of our negotiators. We want to see meaningful commitment to a science based climate agreement and we’re showing the world that we have the tools to bring these goals to life.

Approaching climate change with this perspective, with the drive to create solutions, is key. Before we left Halifax we delivered climate change workshops to almost 150 kids, from grade 6 to 12 – it was an incredible experience. Kids just get it; there are simple answers to the big questions we’re facing. The problem is that while they’re simple, they’re not always easy. But if there’ one thing that I took away those workshops, it’s that the youth of Canada are neither as naive nor as apathetic as our media, our government or our culture tend to portray us.

I had a grade 12 student raise the point that we need a fundamental shift in our value system.

“If I had to be poor to solve these problems, I wouldn’t mind that. But the things are now, no one is going to be the first to give up their big screen tv to get rid of oil.”

We worked with a seventh grade class who were appalled to find out how our government and industry are related;

“So, we pay taxes that our government uses to fund the oil companies, and then we pay for the gas again at the pump, and the whole process is making people sick? Causing cancer and climate change?! And we pay them to do that?!

The world won’t cope with Copenhagen — COME ON, CANCUN

But what I think is really important that came out of these discussions were creative solutions, were the ideas that these kids had; it was necessary to discuss the current state of affairs here in Canada but every workshop ended with solutions (transition to renewables, decrease in consumption, investment in sustainable industry and community programming, penalties for pollution, mandate to use only energy that preserves human rights etc) and an opportunity for kids to share their messages. These messages and calls for action were captured on fabric panels that we brought to Cancun; they”re displayed at our booth in the conference centre and are part of a “Wings of Change” art-ivism project. We’ve been staying up late building these enormous bird sculptures, using the visions, solutions, and questions of youth from across Canada as the feathers (photo coming asap).

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