The Starfish Canada is a nonprofit organization that celebrates young environmental leaders through storytelling and connecting young Canadians together. We annually run our Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 program to recognize change-makers across Canada. We have partnered with Alliance2030 to showcase how these leaders are continuing to affect positive change from coast to coast to coast.
Environmental degradation and even climate change are occurring quickly at a global scale. Many people in Canada are working against these seemingly inevitable occurrences because they understand that creating a more sustainable Canada is possible. Four of The Starfish Canada’s recognized young leaders, Sofia Slater, Shelby Nicole Kitt, Brandon Nguyen, and Sujeethan (Sujee) Vigneswaran shared with me their visions of pathways to a more sustainable Canada and gave recommendations for others to get involved to effectively be a part of this important work. These leaders are working on different issues and with diverse initiatives across Canada, such as on transportation issues, community work, social entrepreneurship projects, writing sustainability blogs, and working with non-government organizations.
“Facing climate change as an individual can be overwhelming,” said Nicole, “but we all must do our part to help secure a habitable planet for future generations. Change can happen at all scales.” All of the leaders emphasized a mix of changes and actions individuals can and should make, as well as broader changes such as legislation transitions and changes in social norms.
Sofia stated that, “individual choices have a direct impact, and therefore we have a direct ability to make a significant impact by making personal changes.” The leaders seemed to agree that working at an individual scale creates a good starting point.
Brandon believes that it is difficult to create systemic political changes unless individual consumers and voters pressure systems and political figures towards making these changes. Changes must occur individually, societally and systemically in order to be most effective.
Environmentally focused education and learning how to embrace a sustainable lifestyle is another key priority set forth by the leaders. Environmental education is essential for people to fully understand issues and how to be a part of change; currently, there are many misconceptions about what constitutes sustainability and climate action. Sofia believes education on these topics should be mandatory in grade school education since this will inform children of the issues at a young age, and they can carry this knowledge with them throughout the rest of their education and lives.
Social media is also a priority as it is an effective way to bring issues and solutions to light. It is easily accessible and intriguing. Social media can be used to inform people on issues along with how to get involved.
Education through school and media is also important because it provides people with the opportunity to become more informed about political issues. In order to move towards a more overall sustainable Canada, legislative policies and procedures should be more focused on sustainability and climate change issues. The changing of political systems is a priority set forth by all of the sustainability leaders.
Climate change can also be seen as a psychological problem to combat. There are many climate change deniers or people who are not willing to get involved. Getting to a progressed state of sustainability requires empowering others rather than using fear tactics or simply stating facts. Some of the leaders recommend using positive stories to communicate about climate change that embeds or follow up with solutions to inspire and mobilize people.
The four leaders also left us with some recommendations on how we can effectively get involved in being a part of creating a more sustainable Canada, since becoming involved was an emphasized priority.
People should become informed about issues in order to advocate for the things that they care about. Things such as getting involved politically through voting, or volunteering for an organization that works on issues that you care about, go a long way. Being involved also influences and empowers others to become more involved, since passion for sustainability is contagious. These actions will also continue to make sustainability a more socially accepted norm.
Shelby stated “I can’t stress enough the importance of getting political! Don’t be fooled, everything is politicized – even the future of our planet. Get educated, get loud and let your local policymakers know that they are being watched and being held accountable for climate action.”
Sofia reminds us that it is important to remember that some choices and actions have broader impacts than others. Similarly, Sujee leaves us with a powerful concept to ponder: “The priority for sustainability in the future will come down to the question, ‘Where do we want to dedicate our time?’”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Selina Powszendy is an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria, studying Environmental Studies and Geography, with a focus in Urban, Health, and Development Studies. She has spent her whole life living in different towns on the west coast, which has inspired her passion for environmentalism. Selina is passionate about social and political change, so you can find her quietly participating in related initiatives. You can also find Selina walking along beaches, in forests, up mountains, reading, drinking coffee, or doing a combination of those things.