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Climate emergency brings youth leaders to Thinkers Lodge

Lianne Ziao (left), chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Nova Scotia, is joined by Louis Sobol and Lily Hannah in planting a red oak in a park across from Thinkers Lodge on July 28 as part of the culmination of a three-day youth climate change retreat hosted by Thinkers Lodge and the Centre for Local Prosperity.
Lianne Ziao (left), chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Nova Scotia, is joined by Louis Sobol and Lily Hannah in planting a red oak in a park across from Thinkers Lodge on July 28 as part of the culmination of a three-day youth climate change retreat hosted by Thinkers Lodge and the Centre for Local Prosperity. - Darrell Cole

High school, university students answer call to action

PUGWASH, N.S. —

If anyone should be sounding the alarm about climate change it should the young people of today. After all, it’s them who will inherit the mess that’s been left for them to deal with.

Youth climate leaders from across the Atlantic region came to historic Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash for a three-day retreat that featured what organizers called brave and deep discussions about climate change and culminated July 28 with statements, poetry and a tree-planting ceremony.

“Climate change is important to me because it’s about my future. I know I’m going to be the one that has to deal with it because of the past generations and the actions they made,” 15-year-old Pugwash District High School student and conference participant Cadence Steeves said. “It’s my responsibility to take care of the earth and make sure I have a safe place to grow up, have a family and my children and their children are safe and can life safe and happy lives.”

The youth retreat was co-hosted by the Centre for Local Prosperity and the Thinkers Lodge.

Steeves said it was important for all the young people attending the conference to open up to help themselves so they would be in a better position to help others. There was also a lot of anti-oppression training and learning to listen to other people’s stories and experiences.

“We have to make decisions that benefit everyone when focusing on issues like this,” fellow Pugwash student and participant Megumi Ozawa said. “This conference really helped. I’m 15 and I don’t have a lot of experience doing a lot of conference and being an activist.”

Steeves said she and Ozawa are from rural Nova Scotia and they don’t get the exposure to activism in larger centres. It was also beneficial to hear from older students about their experiences and learn how those strategies can be used in smaller areas like Cumberland County.

Ozawa said she hopes to spread the message through social media and the school community. Steeves said science has already provided answers on how to stop climate change, but it’s up to the people to become activists for that change to occur.

“We have to break the systems that are meant to destroy us,” Steeves said. “We have to talk to people to understand and be informed.”

One of the youth organizers, Lily Barraclough, said the weekend was powerful and transformational.

“Twenty of us came together from all across Atlantic Canada to learn, to open our hearts and minds, to connect and to build relationships across our generation that will help us solve this crisis that we are in,” Barraclough said. “These thinkers have been brave, vulnerable, and open with each other. We have people from ages 15 to 29 involved with the student movement, free tuition, migrant rights, fighting for a liveable wage, 2SLGBTQ+ rights, Indigenous sovereignty, science, arts and many others. Everyone has been brave and open.”

A red oak tree planting ceremony was led by Mi’kmaq women Hannah Martin and Paulina Meader, which included a smudge and water offering ceremonies.

A commemorative plaque will be placed at the foot of the tree acknowledging the previous seven generations that built the work and to protect the world for the next seven generations.

Robert Cervelli, the executive director of the Centre for Local Prosperity, said conference participants included high school and university students.

“This was probably the first opportunity for youth from across the region to get together, bond, look at how they can network and leverage their energies and work for climate change,” Cervelli said. “They’re the ones that have to live with it more than my generation. The biggest joke I’ve heard about my generation is we’re future challenged. It’s the youth who are going to bear this and they know that.”

The conference was the latest in a series of climate change meetings at Thinkers Lodge. Last fall, a group of leaders from across the region met in Pugwash to identify a list of actions that every citizen, business and government can take immediately to lessen the impacts and decrease the harm from global warming.

Cervelli said another conference is being planned for this fall for faith leaders from around Atlantic Canada while plans are in the works for another conference in 2020 of municipal leaders.

“This is a three-year plan, if not longer, of continuing what is called the Pugwash Mission – a location to have deep, brave conversations about existential threats to mankind. It started with nuclear proliferation that continues today and now it’s climate change,” he said.

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