Wings of Change, With No Apologies

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” This mantra gets tossed around a lot in activist and change-maker circles. Something I’ve questioned a lot in the recent past is how you could possibly expect people to make change without giving them any inkling of how to do so. This is particularly concerning when public education curriculum and the mainstream media are committed to spreading insufficient information about climate change, and applying a heavy ‘but what about the economy’ bias to any information students receive about climate change causing activities. There is no discussion of the social injustice of climate change and there is no talk of the fundamental systems that are preventing real climate action. The CYCC is wholly unimpressed with the level and quality of education that public school students receive regarding climate change causes, impacts, and solutions.

So naturally we’ve taken matters into our own hands.

As part of our 2011 strategy we’ve set a goal of engaging 10 000 Canadian students from across Canada in discussion around climate change, climate justice, and real solutions to these problems.  The Wings of Change is an interactive, skills-based workshop that links the hard science of climate change to practical, community based alternatives and strategies for collective action. It touches on the importance of social movements of the past and how collective, strategic action can tip the scales of power back into the hands of the public. At the end of each workshop, participants will be asked to use words and pictures to represent the kind of Canada that they want to be living in 20 years from now, and record these visions on a fabric feather. After a number of workshops are complete, we will assemble the feathers into a giant bird costume, whose wings will carry the messages of thousands of children.

Yesterday, we pulled a hoax on the Government of Canada. This action was executed to draw attention to the fact that Environment Canada, and more generally the federal government, is doing next to nothing to stop climate change. We received some criticism over the legitimacy and effectiveness of such a stunt, to which I can only reply that we’ve resorted to such non-conventional methods of public engagement only because the government has actively impeded our ability to raise this subject through tradition means. We need actions like this, and campaigns like the Wings of Change, to help us reframe the narrative around climate change and focus on real and effective solutions as opposed to tokenistic approaches to solving climate problems. It is critically important that today’s youth understand climate change not only as an environmental issue, but as a human rights issue. In order to create real solutions that actually work for the people who are being most affected by climate change, we need to be keeping the whole world in mind when we go about creating solutions. It’s time to debunk the dichotomy of environment and economy, and time to realize that without the former, the latter cannot exist. We need to seriously question whether a growth-based economy can function inside a finite world. We need to start thinking about whose interests are being served when the Government of Canada takes on a sector-by-sector approach to cutting greenhouse gases, and whose voices are being heard when the government decides to commit to capping greenhouse gas emissions at 3% above 1990 levels, rather than 6% below. We need to be asking important questions, like whether we can really lower our emissions while still expanding the tar sands and building new coal-fired power plants. What we don’t need is to have a government that tells us to change our light bulbs, walk to work, and pretend like nothing is wrong.

This is why we are launching the Wings of Change educational campaign. We need today’s youth to have the knowledge, confidence and moral responsibility to be asking tough questions and seeking out real solutions.

To get a Wings of Change workshop in your classroom or to get involved as a Wings of Change facilitator, email

Click here to donate to the Wings of Change campaign, and please include ‘CYCC Wings of Change’ in the donation comment box.

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