By Owen Charters
Youth voices are rising again on the vital issue of the environment and climate change.
We have three public policy priorities for Boys & Girls Clubs: youth poverty, youth employment, and mental health. These are the areas where we’re pressing the government to make changes. But we also champion youth in their advocacy work, and the work of environmental activism remains—thankfully—a top priority.
We may be in a pandemic, but as we’ve seen … well, life goes on. There are many battles to fight—not just one against a pernicious virus. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or Indigenous Reconciliation or LGBTQ rights or gender equity, youth are active on many fronts.
Recent news demonstrated that setbacks will not stop important environmental activism from these youth. In Canada, youth who were suing the federal government around the lack of action on climate change lost their fight in federal court. They plan on taking their case to the Supreme Court. And the annual climate change conference hosted by the UN (the one Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic to attend) was postponed to next year, but youth decided that they would continue with a virtual conference anyway. This is not an issue that can be postponed.
We may have seen some temporary reductions in emissions as fewer people fly or commute to work due to COVID-19, but these are temporary—we’ll be back to our old habits soon enough. And unfortunately, the pandemic has also meant discarding some environmental measures, like accepting reusable mugs, bags, and other personal items in some retailers. Masks are the new litter everywhere we turn, often made of non-biodegradable polypropylene. And courier trucks line the streets now, delivering endless carboard boxes. On my street, recycling day sees rows and rows of ever-growing piles of cardboard as households get small packages inside larger packages day after day, or food packaging from Uber Eats or pre-prepared food kits. It’s not a pretty sight.
The youth remind us—as they always do—that there is a fight today and there is a fight for tomorrow. We cannot let the fight to end the pandemic allow us to falter in our fight to create a better planet.
Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring, the original treatise that really kicked off the environmental movement, challenges us:
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one less traveled by—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”