Columbia Basin youth learn to turn their passion into action
Life in the Columbia Basin is rooted in nature, whether it’s camping, kayaking, or simply waking up to the sound of birdsong. It’s no wonder young people in the basin are inspired to protect their local landscapes by getting involved in climate action.
Driven by the desire to preserve their healthy environment, a group of 10 volunteer high school students from across the Basin planned events to mobilize young people to raise awareness of climate action: the Climate Action Forum and its follow-up, the Food Action and Climate.
“It was very inspiring for me to participate in the Climate Action Forum and realize how many young people in the basin are committed to climate action,” said Leeza Perehudoff, one of the forum presenters. “To me, I felt like my message was heard because of their tremendous engagement with the questions I asked them.”
Burst by their environment
The forum, held on February 23, was a unique climate leadership development opportunity for youth in the basin aged 14-18. The goal was to connect, learn and be inspired by the many opportunities and pathways for climate action. To attend, 80 participants gathered in the youth networks of their respective communities, then connected to the online event.
The event was made possible by the Basin Youth Network, which Columbia Basin Trust launched in 2016 to help communities across the region expand local activities and opportunities for young people, enabling them to learn new skills and engage with each other and with their communities.
Five presenters signed up from across the country, from Castlegar to Ottawa. Topics included promoting climate dialogue, indigenous clean energy and how businesses can approach climate action.
Another topic – how research and data can inform people’s actions for climate justice – was raised by presenter Leeza Perehudoff, who grew up in Castlegar and is currently a graduate student supporting rural resilience research in Selkirk College. Like many young people who attended the forum, she too was inspired by the wilderness of the Kootenays, which sparked her interest in environmental studies.
The forum was her first opportunity to connect with young people through the Basin Youth Network, and she was amazed at the level of turnout. She says the young people enthusiastically contributed to the virtual chat, during which she posed the question of who was most at risk for the impacts of climate change.
“They thought about humans and different demographics like old and young, and how different disruptions affect us all, like floods and fires,” she said.
Young people also reflected on the impact of climate change on animals, food security and community members whose health is compromised.
Become familiar with food solutions
The young organizers of the forum also wanted to go further; they wanted young people in the basin to think about concrete climate action solutions for local situations.
On March 2, the Food and Climate Action Workshop was held as another hybrid in-person and virtual event, hosted by Starfish, a nonprofit that connects young environmental leaders to a platform -form of storytelling and to a community of actors of change. Twenty-two participants discussed how everyday actions impact other aspects of life around them, particularly in relation to food.
“It’s all about food, food production and food waste and how that impacts climate change,” said Mike Kent, Regional Coordinator of the Basin Youth Network. “Small groups looked at different aspects of this and brainstormed potential solutions.”
Participants viewed four videos that captured different challenges related to food production: global land use, household waste and composting, soil health, and fair regional practices.
They then used virtual pinboards to brainstorm and debate dozens of ideas on how to optimize local lands for healthy soil and food, support local food production, and create a better global food system. . Many ideas focused on what individuals in a community can do, such as buying local, composting and reusing, or avoiding abundant food packaging.
As Perehudoff says, “A small action can add up to a very big change.”
Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives and how it helps bring social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1-800-505-8998.
Photos courtesy of Columbia Basin Trust
Columbia Basin Trust