Tag Archives: youth

The Silence of Intergenerational Communication

by Graham Rawlings

We are Elders and, as such, we are categorized either as Baby Boomers (52 -70) or Pre-Baby Boomers (70 – ??). We are not Millenials or Generation Y (19 – 35) or post- Millenials or Generation X (35 – 52) unless we are flying under false colours. Pre-Baby Boomers are also referred to as the Silent Generation in some quarters. What does this say about communications between generations?

I recently carried out some research on this in the False Creek district of Vancouver, British Columbia, over several weeks. This being my neck-of-the-woods it seemed an appropriate place to endeavour to see how people of different ages relate to each other, or not, as the case may be.

The start of my study happens to be a wonderful Spring morning with a 120 freshness in the air. I am taking my constitutional along the sea wall to Granville Island Market, ready to pass the time of day with all and sundry but especially with Generation Y.

The snow-capped hills provide a scenic backdrop and the sun is glinting on the ripples in the water. The rhododendrons are in bloom. There are many birds around, the seagulls are wheeling above, ducks are on the water, chicks already growing up. Canada geese are strutting around, and chickadees are chirping in the bushes. There are no eagles to be seen at the moment but I know that if I walk to the west I would likely see at least one standing as a sentinel above its ragged nest near the empty coastguard station which, thanks to our new progressive federal government, is in the process of being reopened.

I know that I am old(ish) and don’t regularly carry a charged cell phone, and I don’t have a dog any longer (regrettably), so who might I share a conversation with this morning? There are likely looking folks of the right generation seen from a distance walking towards me, but as they get closer I see that they have plugs in their ears and their concentration is elsewhere. No chatting with me there!

But the market is a different scene as the stalls unfurl prior to opening time. The fruit and vegetable stalls are having their covers taken off, the bagels are set ready to be baked, and the soaps and lotions are being unwrapped. Maybe it is a little too early for the delicatessens and butchers to display their wares.

A delightful conversation with the two assistants at the bakers buoys my spirits as I buy their excellent and wonderfully smelling breads. It is always good to wander around the market at this time when customers are few. The aroma of coffee compels me to get my first fix of the day.

Maybe I shall be luckier with communications on my return trip along the seawall. The girl controlling the traffic under the Granville Bridge where the seismic retrofit construction is being undertaken is less interested in seeing what is falling from above or helping me cross the road than in checking her cell phone. So much for liability issues! By the time that I return home along the seawall it is time for the speed-cyclists, either rushing to work or being hell-bent on getting their morning exercise. Joggers are few but those demonstrate quite a wide range of fitness levels. Alas, no chance of striking up conversation with any of these single-minded enthusiasts. Some might even be Generation X baby boomers so I need to be careful in drawing conclusions.

Fast forward to another day of research. Today is a lucky day! I am taking my friend’s golden retriever to the UBC Endowment Lands, welcome exercise for us both. The demographics are different in comparison with the seawall. The new neighbourhoods that have been developed on the large UBC campus have resulted in an influx of immigrants drawn to the proximity of good schools and the University. In the woods Logan is my great help. Many people, mostly those with dogs, smile and even chat. This is so different by comparison with the times when I am walking in the woods on my own. Then I am regarded as suspicious – even without a raincoat! There was a murder here several years ago which has never been solved so maybe it is all understandable! Nevertheless the braver souls consider that the peace and freshness of the woods make the risk of interaction and conversation worthwhile. I deduce that many of these friendly folk are actually pre-baby boomers and maybe should not be really be called the ‘silent generation’.

Most recently, in the absence of real communication  and to assuage my pre-baby boomer loneliness, I have become an eavesdropper, a habit which troubled my late wife. My interest is not intrusive or invasive but merely a gathering of snatches of conversation on the hoof, so to speak. People of interest are not those egotists who deliberately invite you and all others around into their cell phone conversations. We all know them. I like the odd phrases that I hear, the unusual accents and cultures caught as people pass by that send me off on flights of fancy. Many are happy, some are sad, often coloured by the sun or dampened by the rain. The flights are influenced by the body language too. Hand-seeking-hand or even the surreptitious kiss. I can the weave a story round them – probably far from the truth but nonetheless interesting – to fulfil my conversational needs  in the absence of communication as they pass off into the distance.

Does my research show that I am personally out of step with Generation Y? Is our whole generation of Elders really like ghostly ships that pass in the night and are out of touch with the younger generations of X, Y and boomers?.

Obviously if I am to communicate effectively I should get a smart phone (or recharge my old one!) to make sure that I can share my morning thoughts in the way that the Xs and Ys now seem to. Despite that, I will still keep smiling in the hope of some real (traditional?) pre-baby boomer conversation along the way with whichever generation wishes to communicate with me. My cell phone number is available by request.

 

Climate Action is powered by people

Paper presented at the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit 2016

by Kate HodgsonKateHodgson

I wasn’t always a part of the climate movement. For a long time I ignored climate change because it terrified me and because I assumed someone else, older and far more capable, was taking care of it. And it took me a long time to look to the future with hope rather than paralysing fear.

I’d like to share a little bit of that journey with you.

I grew up spending my summers at Manitoba Pioneer Camp, which is a Christian canoeing camp on an island in the middle of the Manitoban wilderness. It was at Pioneer Camp that I learned to love Nature, and it was in there that I learned what it meant to care for those around me. Every time I go back I’m reminded of what it is I’m fighting for: the places I love and the people I love.

When I was little I knew climate change was an issue. But back then it was just another thing we talked about at the dinner table. It wasn’t until Grade 9, when I took an environmental studies class that I was forced to confront the climate crisis head-on.

The facts are not always easy to hear. Climate change is already altering our planet in radical and dangerous ways. Millions of people have lost their homes to flooding, storms, and ocean level rise. Millions more are the refugees of climate change-driven conflict. Many are losing their crops and their means of subsistence to drought. The longer we wait to take serious action on climate change, the more people will suffer.

When I learned these things for the first time I was overcome with guilt. I had been taught all my life that this crisis was the consequence of my own individual consumer choices, and so I felt personally responsible for the impacts of climate change. I took all the anger that I felt about the injustice of the climate crisis and I directed it inward onto myself.

And so, for a full year, I became obsessed with greening my own life as well as the lives of people close to me. I rode my bike. I stopped eating meat. I worried over every piece of paper, every item in the trash, and every piece of clothing I bought. I believed that I was fully to blame for the climate crisis. And because the people around me didn’t seem to care, I believed that I was the only one fighting to stop it. For all my micro-managing, I felt disempowered and alone in my activism.

It wasn’t until I attended my first protest, which was a demonstration against tar sands pipelines, that that feeling of powerlessness lifted for the first time. I remember walking down the street, with a sign in my hand and a thousand people all around me, and feeling like I was a part of something that was finally big enough to stop climate change. For the first time, I felt powerful. And it was because I wasn’t fighting alone.

Our individual actions do have a place in this movement. We all have a responsibility to practice what we preach, as often as we can. The work so many of you are doing – school gardens, recycling programs – are a testament to the power of individual choices. But individual choices are only the start—they prepare us to join the people-powered climate movement.

It’s easy to feel guilty about climate change. I know because I’ve been there. But trust me when I say that guilt is not a good place to stay. The climate crisis is rooted in the very DNA of our society: in our economy, in our government, in our institutions. They are the ones with the power to address climate change with the urgency it requires. When world leaders, including our own in Canada, signed the Paris Climate Agreement, it signalled a new era of climate action. Our new leaders will be judged by the actions they take to mitigate climate change. And young people like all of us have to hold them accountable to the promises they have made. Our activism is most powerful when we act together.

That first protest I attended was organized by a group of high school students called Kids for Climate Action, of which I became the director in 2014. They campaign for real action on climate change by standing up to decision-makers and holding them responsible for protecting our future.

When I first joined Kids for Climate Action, they were campaigning against the Enbridge pipeline, and the Fraser-Surrey Docks coal port expansion—two projects that have been proposed right here in BC, one in Metro Vancouver itself.  We also ran three different non-partisan campaigns during the municipal, provincial, and federal elections, in which young people – who are not old enough to place ballots themselves – urged thousands of adults to vote for climate action in their stead.

In 2015 Kids for Climate Action coordinated a day of action on climate change called Defend our Future, in which 25 groups of elementary and high school students from across BC—many of whom had never signed a petition before, let alone attended an event like this—met with their politicians to urge them against allowing the export of coal in BC.

Currently I organize with a group called UBCC350 which is a climate action group at UBC. At the beginning of this year, we mobilized hundreds of students to demand real change coming out of the UN Climate Conference in Paris. We have also been campaigning for three years for UBC to stop investing money in the fossil fuel industry—a movement known as Divestment.

Young people are often told that we do not have a voice. We are told that because we are too young to vote, we cannot have a say in the decisions that will shape our future. But if there’s anything I have learned in being an activist, it is that young people are powerful, often far more than we give ourselves credit for.

I have two 15-year old friends, who crossed a injunction line during the protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline at Burnaby Mountain. They risked arrest because they felt compelled to stand up against climate change on behalf of all those it will harm. Often we equate power with men in suits, and courage with superheroes. But that small and simple act was the most powerful and courageous thing I have ever seen.

Know that your actions aren’t limited to the changes you can make in your own life. Sign a petition. Write a letter. Attend a meeting with your politicians. Take to the streets. Get organized. You are truly never too young to take on the powerful.

Kids for Climate Action’s core organizing team was made up of maybe ten people. Look at all that we have accomplished. There are 500 people in this room. Imagine how much more you can do!

So my advice to you, as you leave this conference and go on looking to make a difference in your community:

  • be loving, because the relationships we have with each other are at the very foundation of this movement;
  • be bold, because the scale of the challenge we face demands it of us;
  • know that together we have the power to create a future we can be excited to live in.

______________________________________________________________________

Kate Hodgson is a first-year student at UBC and a climate activist.

 

 

Change happens now; the world is rooted in our backyard

Paper presented at the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit 2016

by Ryan LiuRyanLiu

Is nature not something beautiful, caring, extraordinary? Does it not surround us and care or us every second of the day like a mother, hence the term Mother Nature? But would you really treat your own mother this way? How can we throw our trash in her backyard, mess up her clean house, neglect her house plants, not thank her for all the nice things she does for us? Who are we to treat our dear Mother Nature this way?

Because of us, she is fading. She is dying from neglect and abuse. Because of us, there will soon be no nature to enjoy, no more wildlife nor vegetation, no more flora nor fauna. Because of us there will be nothing left. I don’t want that and neither should you.

I want to make a change. I will make that change. There’s a really big difference you know? Between wanting and willing. Wanting is just an empty way to trick yourselves into thinking you’re doing a good thing. To the people who sit at home wondering what if? What if what? What if you didn’t spend the day thinking but doing? If we don’t do anything, then how can we hope to accomplish anything?

We are the most powerful creatures to rule the earth; the apex predators, so how are we the ones to plunge earth to its doom? By not taking action, we are causing destruction. By standing by, we are letting the world pass us by. We have to do something for our environment, OUR planet. Remember, you guys still have to live here, under the roof of our Mother Nature.

Now I don’t want you to go outside and plant fifty trees because although that would be awesome, it’s unrealistic. If you could just plant one or have your own little garden, that would help. A small act makes a big difference.

I’m going to bring my mom a fresh glass of water, I’m going to clean up her house, I’m going to plant flowers in her backyard. I’m going to make my mom happy.

I know there’s plenty of people just like you, like me, people who want to make the world a better place. Who want to see our Mother Nature smile again, laugh and dance again, prosper and live on with a bright healthy future in front of her, in front of us.

Who wants to make that change?

Now who will make that change?

 

 

I was lost

Keynote Speech – Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit 2016

by Jay MatsushibaJayMatsushiba

I was lost.

Life got tougher and all I seemed to hear was more and more bad news. This bombardment of pessimism…

Coral reefs will be gone by 2050, climate change is destroying our communities, hundreds and thousands of species going extinct and, most of all, we will not be able to live on a happy planet. These problems kept growing and growing in my mind, becoming these unscalable mountains each day. As those cliffs towered over me, I ran.

I tried to run from those doubts but it seemed like the further I ran the louder and closer those doubts became. I spiralled down and down and further down, and as I ran I left a few important things behind as well.

I disappeared from what I had felt passionate about with environmental sustainability, unable to deal with the helplessness I felt, and I honestly didn’t know if I still believed in the movement. I really needed a moment away from it all, to try to escape this downward spiral. To make those doubts just shut up for once.

So what do you do when you need that moment? Many of us like to take a walk, and that’s what I did. My friend, being the candlelight in that darkness, organized a backpacking trip to hike the famous Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island. She invited me along with a few other friends.

Together, this group of five teenagers was going to take on this adventure. This was the first time many of us had gone backpacking. I’d gone camping plenty of times before but backpacking? That was new to me.

Another first for us was being totally on our own. No parents, no guides; we had only our own limited skills, abilities and mental fortitude to make it through. That was terrifying, but also incredibly empowering.

We had to hike 8 hours on the first day to get to our planned campsite. No big deal, right? We were all fit, young individuals and we thought it’d be just be a healthy challenge. In hindsight we probably should have realized that hiking 20 km of the “Most Difficult” section was going to be tough.

The first two hours of the trail were gorgeous, as we hiked along the beach. The magnificent Pacific Ocean to our left, as far as the eye could see, lined by gorgeous red cedars on our right. We were beginning to feel pretty good about this trip.

But as soon as our spirits seemed to rise, the beach trail ran out. We were instead greeted by a wall of towering evergreen trees. In a gap stood a sign, tilted on an angle, which read “Juan de Fuca Trail è

Greeting us there was, I swear, a cliff. This incredibly steep trail disappeared into the forest, and we needed to drag ourselves and our over-packed bags over this hill.

As we lugged our way up one of the first things we noticed was the dust. People on the trail ahead of us would kick up the dust with every step, leaving it for us in the back to breathe in and having it build up in our eyes, noses and throats. When it was my turn at the front I found it impossible to avoid kicking up dust as well – the fine silt seemed to cover absolutely everything.

Finding water was not as easy as expected either. Many of the streams and creeks that flowed between the hills had dried up. The few that remained weren’t exactly easy to get to. One stream was 2 or 3 metres underneath the bridge that crossed the ravine, and we needed to refill our bottles. So I tumbled down the side of the ravine and ended up absolutely caked in mud.

But both of these challenges paled in comparison to what tested us the most.

The Hills. It seemed like they would never end. We fought the heat, dehydration and dust as we climbed hill after hill. Every hill just lead to another, and every one we climbed seemed taller than the last. Our thighs burned, our calves trembled, and it got to the point where our legs literally stopped working, and started collapsing underneath the weight of ourselves and our bags. Yet at this point we were still hours from our campsite. What we planned to hike in 6 hours, dragged on into almost 10, and I did not think we could finish that trail.

Eventually, on one of our many water breaks, one of us said to the others “I can’t go any further, I can’t do it. You guys can go ahead without me and I’ll catch up.

And at that moment, without any of us speaking a word, we stood up and unpacked his bag. We took some his load, his food, his tent, and repacked it all into our own so that he could keep going. So that we could keep going. Even though all of us were exhausted, in pain, and with legs that barely worked, we still were willing to carry more so that we could finish the trail together.

And finish the trail we did. Finally, as daylight was running out, we made it to our beach camp-site. I swear that view was the most beautiful scene that I have ever seen, with the sun disappearing into the Pacific Ocean.

As we sat around the camp-fire, and enjoyed our instant mashed potatoes, I reflected on what I had learned that day.

  1. Even if things are incredibly difficult, you are capable of far more than you ever expected. Each and every single one of us has the incredible power and strength of the human spirit, and it’s just a matter of finding that strength inside yourself.
  2. There are people out there who will be the candlelight in the dark, and they’ll give you the light you need to escape. Its just up to us to say yes.
  3. You will find friends that will take this journey with you and willing help you out to take some of that load off your shoulders when you need it.

So, look around you right now. Do you see this room full of hundreds of people? We’re all in this together and each of you has the unimaginable potential to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. Look around you – these are the people that are willing to carry some of your load, to help you through. And you’ll be around to help carry theirs when you have the strength.

As I fell asleep on the Juan de Fuca Trial to the sound of the waves crashing, I realized the most important lesson of all. We don’t have to run or turn away. We’re not helpless, we’re not useless and we’re certainly not hopeless. We have the capability to make our environment and this world a better place, and I believe in you. No matter how loud those doubts get, you can do it. And if you can’t alone, then together we will.

Thank you.


Jay Matsushiba is a 12th grade student attending Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Vancouver, B.C. He is currently the co-chair of the Churchill Environment Club and the Vancouver Youth Sustainability Network, working to provide other youth opportunities to be involved in their passions in environmental sustainability. Jay volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium educating visitors, maintaining habitats and helping rehabilitate rescued marine animals.