Notes from Canada's Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up for Change

Notes from Canada's Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up for Change

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In this compilation, young citizens describe the moments they were inspired to pursue their passions to improve their world. Their methods and causes are diverse, and their stories highlight their innovative ways of identifying and addressing problems in society. The achievements here are impressive, from Craig Kielburger’s founding of Free the Children to raise awareness of child labor to Lyndsay Poaps becoming the youngest elected official in Vancouver history. These stories counter the myth of youth as self-absorbed slackers, presenting a bracing new generation of activist leaders.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781926685335
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 07/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 491 KB

About the Author

Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been an outspoken environmental and social activist since she was a child. At the age of nine, she founded ECO, the Environmental Children’s Organization. Three years later, she and other members of ECO attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a UN conference addressing the fate of the world’s natural resources, where she delivered a powerful plenary speech that was later turned into her first book, Tell the World. Shortly after, at the age of thirteen, she was awarded the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 award. She graduated with a BS in ecology and evolutionary biology from Yale and is pursuing a graduate degree in ethnobotany at the University of Victoria. Severn has served on the UN's Earth Charter Commission and on Kofi Annan's Special Advisory Panel for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. She also co-founded the Skyfish Project, an Internet-based think tank that encourages youth to speak out for their future and adopt a sustainable lifestyle. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Kris Frederickson is a proud Métis from Stonewall, Manitoba, who holds BSc and MSc degrees in biosystems engineering from the University of Manitoba where he researched water treatment techniques for Aboriginal communities. He has spoken frequently to Aboriginal youth about pursuing post-secondary education. He holds a Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award, a National Métis Youth Role Model award, and a prestigious National Aboriginal Achievement Award, which he earned in 2004. Kris currently works as a water management engineer and co-chairs 2335, an initiative of the United Way of Calgary. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

Ahmed Kayssi holds dual bachelor’s degrees in engineering chemistry and business German and is currently pursuing an MSc in physiology at Queen’s University. He hopes to become a doctor and participate in the country’s healthcare debate. However, as a native Iraqi who lived in Egypt and Saudi Arabia before calling Montreal home, one of his passions is to raise awareness of the place newcomers have within Canada. At his university, he founded the Arab Students Association and organized and moderated panel discussions on free speech and Canada–US relations. He lives in Kingston, Canada.

Cynthia Mackenzie is a passionate human rights activist who is currently pursuing her doctorate in political science in Melbourne, Australia. She has worked on human rights projects around the world, from sex-worker outreach in Calgary and refugee advocacy in Vancouver to community development in India and Costa Rica and urban environmental projects in Cuba. She has been actively involved in Canada’s public policy debate with Canada25 and for her work, Volunteer Calgary named her a Leader of Tomorrow and Maclean’s has called her one of Canada’s 100 Faces of the Future. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Read an Excerpt

From the Essay Challenging the Planet: A Call from the Arctic to Face the Heat on Climate Change, By Tim Harvey

Our tundra hike was only one stage of a more ambitious journey. From Vancouver to Moscow, we were trying to propel ourselves over land, river, sea, and ice, without burning a drop of fossil fuel. If our journey to Moscow succeeded, I would then challenge myself to return home without emissions. Our efforts would allow us to promote human power as a source of emission-free fuel that is a key to stabilizing our climate. Though cheap, fun, and accessible, human power remains for many people a paradigm shift away.

The idea that climate change is unstoppable, like a runaway train screaming down the Fraser Canyon, breeds apathy and defeatism. It’s also simply untrue. We need to cut about 60 per cent from today’s global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the climate to stabilize. Accomplishing this objective will take teamwork: a network of individuals doing whatever possible to minimize their own greenhouse emissions, united by the common goal of putting an end to human-induced climate change. The team will grow in lockstep with a rising awareness that whether we live in a modern metropolis or the remote Chukotka ice, we’re all in this fight together. It’s a matter of survival.

What you might grimly call the “survival paradigm,” ironically, is all about celebrating life and having fun. It embraces the mindsets of challenge and adventure, which lead to problem-solving, self-fulfillment, and improved health . Applied to transportation, it rules out spending copiously on cars and fuel. It sends you whizzing past traffic jams and arriving energized and smiling to work or school—cyclists already keep thousands of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. As the movement spreads, transmitted by smiles, our gains will multiply exponentially.

With this outlook in mind, Colin and I cycled out of Vancouver in June 2004, bound for the Yukon River, the Bering Sea, and then Chukotka, where Yulia would join us in September. We built an audience by radio, print, and television interviews from remote locations. We called for self-propelled living, a fun and healthy way to combat climate change.

I am a die-hard optimist, but realism told me the fight against climate change could use a few good mind bombs—a term coined by Greenpeace in the 1970s. Back then the group provided tv networks with footage of an industrial Russian harpoon shot like a cannonball just above an inflatable protest boat, then ripping into the backside of a whale. That one dramatic newsreel ended complacency about industrial whaling. Our challenge was to shatter complacency towards car culture, to shake the foundations of an ideology that values convenience first. I hoped to find the mind bombs we needed on the northern frontlines of climate change.

Cycling north from Vancouver, we soon spotted stands of reddish pine trees killed by beetles. Mountain pine beetles are exploding because winters are no longer cold enough to control their population. The beetles are poised to eliminate a dominant tree species from of the ecology of the B.C. interior. Among other problems, all those dead, dry trees are ideal fuel for fire.

The B.C.-Yukon border region felt like a war zone. Flames curled on hillsides like burning oil wells, embers flashed in the wind, and helicopters dropped tanks of lake water over mushrooming columns of smoke. Anticipating the worst, Swift River locals soaked their wooden houses and café with hoses as hundreds of trucks and rvs, and two laden cyclists, pulled over where the highway was officially closed. We loaded our bikes into a canoe on the upper Yukon River and paddled into a haze in which trees glowed and moose swam through a gentle shower of ashes.

The fire season was setting records in the Yukon, the new norm in the era of climate change. Hurricane seasons are likewise growing longer and more intense each year as ocean temperatures rise in the Caribbean. The flames engulfing us were part of a global trend: melting glaciers, continental droughts, and flooded cities. If today is bad, then the future of climate change defies our capacity to imagine.

Table of Contents

Ahmed Kayssi
Anil Patel
Annahid Dashtgard
Ben Peterson
Chris Richards
Craig Kielburger
Cynthia Mackenzie
D. Simon Jackson
Devi Mucina
George Roter
Ginger Gosnell
Ilona Dougherty
Jessica Lax
Karen Kun
Kris Frederickson
Lyndsay Poaps
Miali-Elise Coley
Natalie Gerum
Nathan Cullen
Richard Hoshino
Robin Rix
Severn Cullis-Suzuki
Shakil Choudhury
Tim Harvey
Yuill Hebert

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