It is not uncommon for activists at all levels to feel defeated or overwhelmed. For some those feelings surface when you look at everything on your plate and wonder how you’re going to get to it all. For others those feelings come at you when you take a step back to look at the issue that you’re tackling and wonder if you’re making a big enough dent. Both of these have happened to me and in the many conversations that I’ve had with my fellow activists, I have confirmed that I’m not alone.
Over the years I’ve developed my own go-to strategies for when those feelings of doubt creep in. Some of them include looking to my role-models for inspiration and I’ll seek them out to re-center myself. I might meet up with them in person if I can or I’ll go back and read something they’ve written. Another thing that I do is turn to social media. I pay attention to hashtags, people, organizations and movements. This one always works. Want to try it? Go online and search #FridaysForFuture. But come back here because today I discovered another strategy that really works.
Spend time with young people. Really young people. Meet them where they are. Talk with them. Listen to them. It will reaffirm that you’re on the right path and reassure you that there are young people ready to follow you and join you.
I spent the morning with a class of grade 3 and 4 students as they completed the last of 16 challenges for the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge. Over the past few months students like them from K-12 all over Canada have been participating in this program presented by Shell Canada and Canadian Geographic Education that covers everything from what shopping locally looks like to the health of our waterways. The contest aims to increase energy awareness among Canadian students, which we all know is becoming increasingly more important.
We measured our carbon footprint as part of the How Big Are Your Carbon Feet? Challenge, one of the 16 energy-related challenges, and talked through all of the different ways we could each make commitments to reduce our own. The young students offered that they would walk or bike more than get in the car, encourage their parents to buy local fruits and vegetables, turn off the light switches and taps and take shorter showers.
We talked about 7 Rs. Not a typo. Not 3 Rs. SEVEN. Recycle. Refuse. Reduce. Reuse. Repair. Re-gift. Recover. These kids know their stuff. They are masters of it and are (literally) being schooled by teachers leading by example. The paint that we used today in our Carbon Footprint activity was made by one of their teachers and it is GENIUS. Taking Reduce and Reuse to the next level. They hang on to their markers that don’t work so well anymore and immerse them in water to collect the remaining ink to turn it into water-colour paint. When they have drained every last drop of colour from the markers, not only do they have beautiful and vibrant paint for their projects, but they send the markers to the manufacturer to recycle. Again, GENIUS.
Spending time with young students has always been important for me. I love walking into elementary school classrooms and meeting them where they are to talk about what they are learning and what moves them. I am always inspired to hear that the issues that matter to me, matter to them too. They are the generation that will be coming up behind me and when I spend time with them I know that everything that I am working on is as much for them as it is for me. It’s our future.
You guys, today I spent time with the future, and I feel really, really good about it.