The youth response to the major climate conference of the year, the COP25 (Conference of Parties) felt very potent. I am experiencing and understanding more of the scale of the climate crisis, as well as the scale of the efforts to manage the crisis.
It was interesting, and admittedly disturbing, to be at COP25 where such important negotiations were happening – somehow the humans at those tables have the power to influence the billions of humans across the globe who were not so lucky to get a seat.
There was a buzz of energy with hundreds of youth united in our cause from all over the world attending and protesting the conference. Dozens of Indigenous youth from all over South America flew on an airplane for the first time, having to come all the way to Spain to defend their forests and waters – a disheartening symbol of South America’s colonial past and how that cloud continues to affect the continent’s present. It is incredibly powerful to witness the weight of the words of the Indigenous peoples of the world, with their unbroken connection to and understanding of the Earth as the source of medicine, sustenance, and life itself.
Despite awareness of global climate change skyrocketing in 2019, people who are most impacted by these changes are still being ignored. The voices of those from small-island nations, the global south, Indigenous Nations, youth, women, and other marginalized people are being silenced, while the agendas of polluting mega-industries continue to be amplified.
The result of COP25 was quite disappointing. Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace, told journalists, “in the 25 years that I have been at every COP, I have never seen the gap bigger between the inside and the outside,” referring to slow movement from politicians inside the conference compared to the swift action being demanded by activists on the outside. Despite such a loud global response to climate change this year, politicians still lack the will to act. Hopefully leading up to the COP26 in Glasgow (November 2020), there will be much more effort to increase overall climate literacy in schools and workplaces. Social movements will continue to grow, awareness will continue to spread, and fossil fuels will – hopefully – remain in the ground. Ultimately, at COP26 we must remain hopeful that politicians will be able to truly represent people and communities, and not just the petro-state and corporate monoliths.
In Madrid I noticed more conversations about the intersectionality of climate change and social injustices. Neoliberalism, colonialism, and sexism are all causes and outcomes of climate change – a negative feedback loop. As a result, we continue to understand climate change as an Indigenous rights issue, as a women’s rights issue, as a class rights issue, and as a human rights issue. The solutions to this problem must go far beyond technological and market-based solutions. We must also reckon with our collective histories in order to secure our future.
At the Social Summit – a gathering that was happening in conjunction with COP 25 – we heard a report from human rights activist and director of War on Want, Asad Rehman. Rehman spoke passionately about what he felt was happening at COP25. The conference was “an argument between who is going to live, and who is going to die”. Negotiations were focused around loss and damage: who gets funding and compensation for the effects of climate change. The US and EU were trying to excuse themselves of any liability and block any support going to the global South. This lack of accountability from the globe’s most powerful economies illustrates one of the greatest hurdles the climate change movement will have to overcome.
Despite all the disappointments of COP25, it was an incredible feeling to be a part of Fridays for Future on November 6th with an awe-inspiring half million people. It does seem that despite the total ‘COP-out’ that happened in Madrid, social movements will continue to grow and gain power, which offers hope.
There are scores and scores of phenomenally intelligent, passionate people working on climate justice. Ultimately, we need to panic, but also remember to breathe. I feel deeply grateful and inspired by my generation. It is a true gift to be among such tirelessly intelligent, resilient and courageous young people who are uniting all over the world.
A recent publication from Lab Director Dr. Robin Cox and co-author Dr. Nirupama Agrwal covers the 150th Commemoration of Canada and the connection to the natural disasters in Canada’s political, cultural, economical, and social landscape. The publication is an introduction to a Natural Hazard’s special issue which covers not only the history of natural disasters in Canada, but the implications and trends to anticipate moving forward.
To read the introduction, click here.
The special issue also features two articles which RbD Lab members have co-authored on. More than a checkbox: engaging youth in disaster risk reduction and resilience in Canada, covers ideas around youth resilience and the need to engage youth in climate change and why this population is not only necessary to have in such conversations, but bring valuable tools and skills to the table.
RbD Lab members also co-authored Assessing Canada’s disaster baselines and projections under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: a modeling tool to track progress with lead author Dr. Matt Godsoe. The article discusses the United Nations (UN) Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and describes research that utilizes UN methodology to create baselines and targets for Canada, and the practical implications for the country moving forward, projecting trends to year 2030.
The RbD Lab wants to share with you these two Kitsumkalum Youth videos which address climate change in unique and creative ways. The Getting Ready video is a powerful music video produced with Kitsamkalum youth. The longer, From Glaciers to Glass Sponge Reefs, is very informative about the impact of climate change on their traditional lands.
On February 21st, more than 50 Wood Buffalo community members and Royal Roads University’s ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Research Innovation Lab members met to present and discuss findings from the “Youth Voices Rising” project on youth, recovery, and resilience in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The research study occurred in response to the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster and was supported by the Canadian Red Cross.
The presentation and discussion covered the background of the two-year project, the youths’ ideas for a better community, a focus on how to strengthen youths’ sense of belonging and resilience, and ways to engage youth in the community as the community rebuilds after a wildfire disaster. The findings are showcased in the “Youth Vision and Voices in Wood Buffalo” report: https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb. View the event video at www.facebook.com/ResiliencebyDesignlab/videos/253510002242119 and www.facebook.com/ResiliencebyDesignlab/videos/1166184303576522
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott opened the presentation by sharing his role in the #YouthVoicesWB social media campaign that was part of the Creative Action Research study. He also shared his commitment to including youth voice in decisions that affect them. Youth community member Pamela (age 17) also shared her experience with the YVR project, highlighting how impactful it was to have hers and others concerns and ideas taken seriously by local community members as well as validated by other youth. As Pamela described, “Before I started working with youth voices, I never really knew the power or importance of my voice or the impact that I could have in my community.”
RbD Lab members Dr. Tamara Plush, Dr. Robin Cox, and Ashley Berard then presented on the #YouthVoicesWB campaign, which asked youth to answer the question: “What would you do to make your community better?” Youth answered this through original art pieces, poetry, photos, songs and more. The youth’s ideas focused on five priority areas, including transportation, health and wellbeing, volunteerism, participation and activities, and education. Tamara summarized the research through the lens of two key concepts: belonging and resilience. “Belonging connects to when youth feel valued for who they are or who they want to be. Belonging also includes the places that youth can go to feel safe, brave, supported and connected while navigating their unique roles and responsibilities in their communities,” she said.
The focus on resilience was highlighted by the photography show “We are Resilient: We See the Positive” from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation youth. This was showcased around the room for community members to view, and can be viewed here: (https://resiliencebydesign.com/indigenous-youth-visualize-community-resilience-post-disaster-through-photography/). To highlight the arts methods and creations that made the YVR project so unique and powerful, Willi Whiston and Genoveve Zepeda-Whiston performed their original YouthVoicesWB song, Change.
Following the presentation portion of the day, the community members attending participated in group discussion. They offered ways their organizations could address the youths’ ideas and concern, strengthen youth belonging and resilience in the community, and how youth could aid in leading in the way towards positive change. The inspiring conversation led into presentations from key community leaders, including an overview of regional community resilience planning by Jody Butz, RMWB Regional Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management; a presentation by Cecelia Mutch, Executive Director of United Way; and an update by Guy Choquet, Canadian Red Cross Director of Operations Alberta Fire Recovery on Disaster Risk Reduction efforts in Wood Buffalo.
On January 18th, 2019, some of the RbD Lab Team facilitated an exciting and engaging Pearson Peer Workshop with youth from Pearson College UWC, based in Victoria BC. The workshop ran under the Lab’s SSHRC Insight Grant project, which focuses on youth engagement and climate change. The successful workshop had space for 50 youth to attend, and every seat was taken. The workshop had five stations where youth rotated through during the evening and each station provided space for interaction through activities or discussion on topics such as involving or engaging youth in complex issues that affect and concern them, such as climate change adaptation and resilience.
Five youth (Hanting Wang, Eylül Taş, Tanzil Fatima, Nicholas Chaturia, and Kira Brunner) with experience in the project were trained as creative facilitators prior to the event and took the lead role in planning and running the workshop and discussions at the different stations. Lab members Kiana, Nigel, and Tiffany took the lead around logistics of the event and keeping the evening interactive and informative.
At the end of the evening, the core Pearson youth facilitating team led a debrief in which they shared how transformative the experience of facilitation had been and how the level of engagement of their peers in the workshop had only grown throughout the course of the evening. Facilitators also shared with the RbD Team how surprised they were with their level of confidence and comfort they had developed to facilitate the workshop. The facilitating team were awarded certificates at the end of the evening to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements with the workshop and project.
The ResiliencebyDesign Lab was recently featured in a blog by The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR). CRFR was established in 2001 as a consortium research centre based at the University of Edinburgh with partners in many Universities and regions. The aims of the Centre are to;
- Produce high quality, collaborative and inclusive research relevant to key issues in families and relationships.
- Act as a focal point, and promote and facilitate a network, for all those with an interest in research on families and relationships.
- Make research more accessible for use by policy makers, practitioners, research participants, academics and the wider public.
- Enhance the infrastructure to conduct research on families and relationships (http://www.crfr.ac.uk/about/)
Similar to the RbD Lab, CRFR develops a multi-disciplinary approach focusing on areas including childhood, family, environment, consumption, gender-based violence, and health and caring. RbD Lab Member Laura Wright is a PhD Student who is a member of CRFR at the University of Edinburgh researching the role of play-based methodologies in child researchers’ psychosocial wellbeing and meaningful participation. Laura has been engaged in attending seminars with CRFR and supporting a resilience-based seminar series. This connection allowed our organizations to learn more about one another and their recent feature highlights the work the ResiliencebyDesign Lab does.
View the feature blog here:
Pictured above: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor and Council pose with (center) Brina Cardinal, Mariam Arain and Dr. Tamara Plush from the RbD Lab at RRU for the launch of the Youth Vision and Voice in Wood Buffalo report November 27, 2018.
Youth in the Wood Buffalo region have innovative ideas for rebuilding the region back even better after the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster (aka the Fort McMurray wildfire). In the Youth Vision & Voice in Wood Buffalo report produced by the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at RRU, youth aged 14-24 share their experiences, concerns, and visions for creating vibrant, resilient communities. Read and download the report at https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/.
The youth ideas cover areas important to them such as transportation, health and wellbeing, volunteerism, activities, and education. The report also promotes key community actions that can support youth, such as engaging them in activities that reduce their risk to future disasters, strengthening youth-adult partnership opportunities, and ensuring activities are inclusive for Wood Buffalo’s diverse youth population across the region.
Mariam Arain, age 15, from Fort McMurray and Brina Cardinal, age 17, from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation in Janvier launched Youth Vision and Voice at the Regional Municipality Wood Buffalo Council meeting November 27 in Fort McMurray. Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott responded to the youth presentation with recognition and encouragement: “Thank you for being community champions and champions of this region. I couldn’t be more impressed. I am a huge advocate of getting youth involved in this community and making their voices heard. What you are saying perfectly aligns with what I see for getting youth involved in the future.” The RbD Lab produced the report as part of the Canadian Red Cross funded project Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo.
The report findings are based on interviews with youth, and a social media campaign youth named “#YouthVoicesWB,” which ran Sept-Oct 2017 and involved multiple social profits, schools, and youth centres across the Wood Buffalo region. The campaign asked youth to answer one question: “What would you do to make your community better?” More than 350 youth responded through photography, poetry, original songs, painting, sticky notes, and other creative means. The youth interviews and social media campaign not only revealed key priority areas for youth in the region, it also provided insight into how adults can better connect youth to decision-making, and why youth engagement is vital for Wood Buffalo’s post-disaster future.
The process of sharing their voice also proved empowering for Wood Buffalo youth and inspired creative paths to move ideas forward. For example, Aishwarya Gurumurthy, a 19-year-old youth from Fort McMurray, worked with the RbD Lab on the project as a Research Assistant, and also created a collage on transportation in answer to the campaign question. She described her experience as collaborative and powerful:
“Seeing that I have taken a step in the right direction and working towards the goal of making a concrete change in the community helped me with my recovery. These experiences made me feel more connected, and my bond with the community grew stronger,” Aishwarya said. “I felt more valuable after having my voice heard, and being recognized for my views, beliefs, and opinions. It is the sense of satisfaction that I have contributed to making my community better that helped me in the wildfire recovery and rebuilding process.”
To read or download the report, visit: https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/
For questions: Dr. Tamara Plush, firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Robin Cox, email@example.com.
Watch the video below, produced by Lab member Tiffany Hill, to learn more about the RbD Lab and our creative process! If this sparks your interest, don’t forget to visit the ResiliencebyDesign Lab’s Exhibit running in the Royal Roads University Library until June, 2018.