U.N. Study: Because of Humans, 1 Million Species May Soon Go Extinct, with Devastating Consequences for Our Own Survival
– Paste Magazine, May 6, 2019
Climate change has contributed to droughts since 1900—and may get worse.
– National Geographic, May 1, 2019
In 1995, then12-year-old Severn Suzuki addressed the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. She pleaded with UN leaders from all over the world “If you can’t fix it, please stop breaking it.” After she made this speech, she was called “The Girl Who Silenced the World for Five Minutes.” They heard her, but they didn’t listen to her. There wasn’t the resounding call to action she demanded. I’m sure she couldn’t imagine 25 years later she would see headlines like these.
I’m also pretty sure though, she couldn’t have imagined young people – girls – like Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin – not much older than she was at the time, would be the ones mobilizing and leading the climate change movement in 2019.
The #FridaysForFuture movement is growing globally, nationally and locally. Students are walking out of classes and into the streets. The message is loud and clear – we are in a climate crisis that threatens our present and our future. The May 3rd #ClimateStrike was the biggest yet in Canada with an estimated more than 95 locations across the country. There were more than 300 youth in Toronto alone.
There is another headline that I saw in my Twitter feed the other day that said something like “Of all the scary issues of our time, climate change is the scariest.” We are really a generation that lives everyday with fear that is unprecedented. In addition to the horrible things happening around the world, and in headlines every day, we are increasingly being faced with extreme weather events like wildfires and floods destroying homes and whole communities. Globally, climate change is speeding up and affecting our water, land, food and wildlife. It’s not a plot from a movie. This is our life.
And because this is our life, we don’t just read the headlines, we make them.
‘The youth have risen!’ Climate strikers storm the streets
We are a generation of change-makers and action-takers. We are trail-blazers and solution-seekers. We are scared, but we are also fearless.
Young people are everywhere, doing everything that we can. We are striking, marching and speaking out. We are writing letters and engaging politicians and business leaders. We are listening and learning. We are voting.
There’s something else though. We are studying and offering solutions. This week students from across Canada are participating in the Canada-wide Science Fair and a lot of them are going after the Intact Climate Change Adaptation Award. The award is for projects that look at new ideas for how we can help individuals and communities adapt to climate change. I was given special access to the nominations and I can assure you, these real-world solutions show that thought-leadership cannot be limited by age. Consider these projects:
Does Knowledge Increase Empathy and Compassion?
This project studied levels of empathy/compassion in students prior to six-weeks of education with experts on topics relating to animal-welfare and the environment. A follow-up survey found student levels of empathy/compassion did increase, supporting the hypothesis. This knowledge is important as our world population grows and the need for empathy/compassion towards people, animals and the environment becomes more critical than ever.
Carbon Capture: Combating Climate Change
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading factor in global warming. This scientific inquiry explores the molecular structure of carbon dioxide, its properties, and how it is contributing to ocean acidification and climate change. The study examines the most effective methods of carbon capture. The student conducted ocean acidification experiments on mollusk shells, innovating to build a carbon capture robot that assists in reforestation.
Reused Christmas Trees: Creating a Biodiesel from Pine Needles
In order to end reliance on fossil fuels and find a use for the 5-6 million Christmas trees recycled, burned, or left to decompose each year, one student decided to create an alternative fuel from this plant waste. They extracted the pine oil from the needles using a sonicator, converted it to a biodiesel, and then tested the quality of the biodiesel compared to ethanol.
Examining Past Trends and Predicting Future Climate Impacts in Sydney, NS
One student examined how their community’s climate has changed and will continue to do so if we don’t do something to slow climate change. Using 50 years of historical data for temperature and tide level, the student developed a model that predicted significant past and future increases in temperature and tides in Sydney, NS.
If I didn’t already tell you that these projects were all undertaken by students in grades 7-12, would you know that that? Kids these days, right? Right.
We are woke and doing everything that we can to ensure that those who can make a difference are woke too. But here’s the thing, as important as it is to get the attention of leaders, it’s as important (maybe more) that we have the attention of those who will continue to speak out, to learn and to offer solutions. It is our future, after all.
If you want to learn how you can get involved with the Canada-wide Science Fair next year, check out www.cwsf.youthscience.ca.