Local youth are being prepared and educated to face the oncoming challenges of a changed climate and were able to receive some instruction at the first Youth Climate Action Summit in the region.
The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network (FABN) hosted Canada’s first Youth Climate Action Summit (YCAS21) recently. Teams from 14 high schools attended the two-day virtual conference to learn from experts about climate change, impacts, and solutions before designing their own climate action plan. The summit hosted 68 participants, including 42 from local schools as well as teams from as far away as Windsor and Nobel.
The summit opened with the Haudenosaunee thanksgiving address by Abraham Francis of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Environment Program, as well as an introduction to the Anishinaabe seven grandfather teachings by Julie Servant.
Summit speakers included Dr. Curt Stager, Professor of Natural Science at Paul Smith’s College and science journalist for National Geographic, The New York Times, Fast Company, and Adirondack Life; Dr. Chris Burn, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, internationally recognized expert in the domain of permafrost and ground ice in Yukon and the western Arctic; Cameron Wales, Brockville City Councillor and eight other expert presenters.
The summit closed with Dr. Dianne Saxe, former Environment Commissioner for Ontario, leading environmental and climate lawyer and deputy leader of the Ontario Green Party who introduced the Closing Challenge to the youth teams to develop their own climate action plan for their schools, and communities. The climate action plans are solution-oriented and establish youth as climate change stakeholders and advocates.
Climate change has moved firmly into the present. As its impacts escalate over time, it is today’s youth that will feel its effect most. Numerous national and international reports continue to emphasize the urgent need for action on climate change and young people are now stepping up to meet that need. At the conclusion of the summit, some climate action plan ideas that participants pitched included: promoting awareness of the importance of no-wake boating to protect waterfowl nesting sites and reduce erosion in particular channels of the St. Lawrence River; raising student and teacher awareness through in-school climate action events; in-school gardens and composting; tree planting projects; improving school drinking water quality so as to reduce plastic bottles; and planning a youth climate action summit for the Ottawa region.