Let’s Talk Energy: Youth outreach

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On February 21, I joined 300 high-school students at the “Let’s Talk Energy” event at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. The session was streamed live to 25,000 schoolchildren.
The Event

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On February 21, I joined 300 high-school students at the “Let’s Talk Energy” event at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. The session was streamed live to 25,000 schoolchildren.
The Event
The invitation noted Let’s Talk Energy “is a national energy literacy initiative based at the Canada Science and Technology Museum that aims to promote an informed discussion on energy and climate with all Canadians. This multi-year initiative reaches millions of Canadians across the country every year through exhibitions, school programs and kits, social media programming, virtual tools, and events.”
The panelists
Three speakers spoke about climate change: Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change; Will Gadd, Canadian internationally renowned ice climber, Red Bull athlete, and leader of the On Thin Ice Expedition to discover
climate change effects on the Athabasca Glacier; and Andrea Brazeau, indigenous youth leader who spoke at Winnipeg’s Arctic Climate Change Youth Forum last year.
First, the panelists agreed climate change is occurring world-wide and is best explained through personal stories, versus charts and diagrams.
Panelists’ stories
Nineteen-year-old Brazeau impressed me most while recounting her northern Quebec experiences. She explained how unpredictable weather, thinning ice, and changing animal behaviour affect Inuit peoples’ daily lives.
Laughter greeted her opening remark as she hooked us with humour: “Climate change is happening. We all know this – except DT (US President Donald Trump).”
She pointed at an image of her and a caribou
she’d shot. “It took me six hours by snowmobile to reach the caribou hunting grounds.” She explained how radically different this is to a few years ago, when herd migration took the animals close to town.
“Fifteen years ago, you’d know how to hunt caribou. Now? My brother is 13 and has never seen a live caribou,” she said.
Her next slide showed the exorbitant costs of imported food, where “One bag of grapes is $31; a bag of fried chicken is $51; a bottle of water is $10.99.”
The audience gasped: this first-hand experience of climate change’s effects connected with them.
Wrap-up and questions
Will Gadd discussed the disappearance of ice throughout the world, specifically addressing the retreat of Alberta’s Athabasca Glacier. Minister McKenna noted what a good rapport she’d had with former US President Obama regarding climate change, COP talks, and setting limits to emissions, and explained how carbon taxes help fund new energy solutions.
Students then asked questions, primarily directed to Minister McKenna. She was impressed by their political and environmental astuteness. One student noted that although it was great that she got along with former President Obama, how would she connect with the new president’s climate-change denial?
Minister McKenna closed the event by challenging students to submit ideas regarding green solutions to green energy growth.
Competition for 18-26 year-old youths
The Minister’s Office sent me an e-mail regarding the competition: “North American leaders are calling on youth to champion bold ideas for green growth to address the complex sustainability challenges we currently face. Visit https://cec.ideas
cale.com to submit your science, technology and business innovations and get the chance to pitch your idea to North America’s top environmental officials, receive C$5,000 in project seed funding, and meet with experts at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation Secretariat.”
The innovation challenge is open to residents of Canada, Mexico and the United States aged 18-26. Participants are encouraged to look beyond
incremental solutions and propose bold ideas to leapfrog to alternatives and solutions that address the complex sustainability challenges facing North America.