Youth Speak Up for Climate Action
Scared. Disappointed. Worried. Angry. Nervous. Stressed. These are reactions of young people to the climate emergency as reported by students attending the Sustainable Simcoe Youth Summit at Lakehead University on May 26. Two hundred students from area high schools spent the day at Lakehead’s Orillia campus exploring how to respond to the challenge of the climate emergency.
The event was supported in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) at Lakehead and organized by the Sustainable Orillia Youth Council with support from Lakehead’s Orillia faculty and staff.
“I am very happy with how the event went,” said lead organizer, Blythe Wieclawek, President of the Sustainable Orillia Youth Council and Grade 11 student at Twin Lakes Secondary School.
The day began with a keynote address from Dr. Brad Dibble, a Barrie-based cardiologist and member of Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project” team, who elaborated on the impacts of climate change on health, livelihoods, food, well-being and conflict. Workshops followed, including a simulation where “delegates to a United Nations Global Summit” representing eight sectors—including governments of the world, industry and commerce, agriculture and forestry, clean tech, and “climate justice hawks”—all worked on solutions to the crisis in an effort to keep global temperature increase to 1.5C. (Spoiler alert – they did it!)
Closing out the day was an inspiring call to action by 23-year-old Toronto-based youth activist, Allie Rougeot—whom some refer to as “Canada’s Greta Thunberg.” She urged youth to carry “the conviction that you are capable of making change” and to realize that the voices of young people are necessary to solve the climate crisis. “You hold so much power,” she said, “so don’t let it go to waste! You don’t need to be an expert. You just need to care.”
As the students prepared to return home, they reported their reactions to the day. “I learned about solutions I didn’t know existed, said one.” “I learned that there’s no simple, single answer – small actions by many people all add up!” said another. And most importantly, “We all have a role to play.”
And indeed we do. Let’s support our youth. Climate action calls for all of us to play our parts.
Click here to hear Mayor Steve Clarke’s support for the Youth Council and the work they are doing.