finding your place in the story

I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew that helping youth get engaged through a grassroots organization was something I couldn’t pass up. This is exactly what I was looking for – a chance to do something in my community.

In a Climate Emergency, ‘all hands on deck’ includes my own

After graduating from grad school into a pandemic, I had risk of contact on the top of my mind when looking for work, in addition to the usual imposter syndrome.

I had already decided that I wanted to get involved in my community and direct my career (whatever a ‘career’ is now) towards climate justice. We’re in a Climate Emergency and ‘all hands on deck’ includes my own. 

The thing is, for those of us who aren’t very extroverted, getting out there and acting is intimidating, (add climate anxiety and/or mental health issues to that and it’s downright immobilizing). 

Then I found an opening at a local organization, SCGC. I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew that helping youth get engaged through a grassroots organization was something I couldn’t pass up. This is exactly what I was looking for – a chance to do something in my community.

Getting into local advocacy

I had studied place-based education and similar ideas, so I knew the local level was important and where I wanted to direct my energies. But local advocacy can be hard to break in to. 

Some things I’ve learned from my time with SCGC is the impact of municipal decisions on the climate and environment, largely through land-use planning. It’s so important for us to get involved and influence these local decisions, because collectively, they impact about half of our domestic carbon emissions – not to mention the social impacts. Local politics and planning are hugely underestimated. 

But this means that mobilizing and advocating locally can have a massive impact on those decisions too – in emissions reduction and environmental protections, but also in housing, transportation, public health, Indigenous rights, social justice, and ultimately, what our communities are going to look like in the future. This is especially important to young people.

Photo of several young people sitting with a lake in front of them and the sun setting in the distance. Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

"...collectively, [municipal land-use decisions] impact about half of our domestic carbon emissions..."

Strength in community

I also learned how critical it is to get out and find people that you can be in community with.

When you’re feeling all of the feelings that come with being in an emergency that most people in your life aren’t even acknowledging, finding others who care is one of the best things for your wellbeing and your ability to start doing the work.

We need major relationship building happening across all parts of our communities to create that foundation for the social capacity to change.

Find people who support you and your learning.

Find people who do their best to model the changes we need to make.

Find people who make you feel more confident in your ability to do this work, in whatever capacity you find yourself doing it in – because you can do it. 

There’s a lot of work to be done, and it has to be done together. 

It’s not always easy to find an ‘in’ to local advocacy, but it’s worth it.

There are barriers for young people, but organizations can work to address and dismantle them. It might take a while to find a space that’s a good fit for you, and what advocacy looks like for you will likely change over time. 

There's a role for every one of us

The point is that there’s a role for every one of us in this story.

The Climate Emergency is here, now; we have to act as though this is an emergency.

If you feel climate anxiety, harness that to get out of your comfort zone and do something. Find your place(s) in this climate story.

Becoming in relation to others is a good way to find this. I will be continually finding my place in this story, with my role changing as the narrative changes. 

Start small, follow local organizations on social media to see the work being done in your community, then see how you can help with your skills, or just as an extra set of hands.

Read up on local issues, on local news websites. How do your interests intersect with climate? I guarantee you they do, even if it’s not obvious at first.

How can you, in your work, school or hobby, create a space for climate action and for dialogue about possibilities for a different future?

Photo of a child reading with a flashlight under his blankets. Credit Klim Sergeev.

"How can you, in your work, school or hobby, create a space for climate action and for dialogue about possibilities for a different future?"

Transformative change

In a neoliberal, individualistic society, simply building reciprocal, caring relationships with one another, the plants and animals, is activism. Relating to the world in a non-extractive, equitable way is transformative. 

When we can bring these other ways of existing into the world and advocate for doing things differently – because what our society has been doing isn’t working and never did – we can start building something different. 

Making connections to others and between parts of our lives paint a clear picture of what we’re doing wrong. From these connections, we can reimagine and rebuild something better. A different vision of the future that isn’t a dystopia, but a future where we changed our priorities, our systems and our values. Issues are interconnected – we need collaboration across issues, sectors and people so that we can work together to envision and advocate for just, sustainable communities, and indeed, build them. 

Building community, building the future. 

Thank you to everyone involved with SCGC. 

Kelly, signing off. 

Kelly Gingrich

Kelly Gingrich

SCGCs Youth Engagement Lead

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Send Kelly a message letting her know that you’d like to get involved. She can put you in touch with other youth organizing on the ground in Simcoe County.
  2. Work on your influencer game! Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, most ‘influencers’ are bought and paid for by corporations who don’t have any interest in building a better world. Social media is a thing, for better or worse, and it desperately needs young people who are good at communicating important issues in a way that is fun and accessible.

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finding your place in the story​

I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew that helping youth get engaged through a grassroots organization was something I couldn’t pass up. This is exactly what I was looking for – a chance to do something in my community.

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Climate Anxiety and Youth: Prioritizing Mental Health When it Come to Climate Advocacy

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Youth Vision of Simcoe County

Results from a survey conducted in the summer of 2021 asking youth in Simcoe County what they envision for the future.

One goal was to address a gap in the County’s Municipal Comprehensive Review engagement, which did not include voices of youth. The MCR is planning for the communities that today’s youth will inherit, after all.

Introduction

The Youth Vision of Simcoe County Survey was a collaboration between Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) and Simcoe County Environmental Youth Alliance (SCEYA) over the summer and fall of 2021. The intention of the survey was to get an indication of where Simcoe County youth are at with regards to climate action, barriers to engaging in their communities, and their visions for the future of their communities. 

This was an informal community survey to inform how local organizations can help eliminate barriers that youth are facing to engaging in community organizations, local government and climate action generally.

The results of this survey are not generalizable, nor is this intended to be a formal, academic study. The survey was promoted through social media, word of mouth and reaching out to community organizations, local libraries and schools.

The survey had 162 respondents. No contact information was collected from participants to ensure the anonymity of the youth who completed the survey.

Download a PDF version of the report.

Concerns & Barriers

We know that young people globally are facing severe mental health challenges because of the climate emergency, and according to more recent research1Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon, these mental health challenges have been linked to government inaction.

Climate action must be part of addressing the mental health crisis that is impacting youth here in Simcoe County.

  • 75% said that they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about climate change
  • About half said that climate change is affecting their lives either ‘a lot’ or ‘a great deal’, with another third saying it is affecting their lives ‘a moderate amount’

Considering that Ontario is not even feeling the worst of the coming impacts of climate change yet2Canada in a Changing Climate: National Issues Report, this is particularly concerning. Young people are recognizing that the climate emergency is here, now.

Photo of a young woman looking sad. Photo by Kyle Broad.

Youth who were not involved in climate action often faced barriers to meaningful participation:  

  • About half of participants felt that participating in local decision making was ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.
  • Main barriers were identified as simply not enough time to engage, not knowing enough about local issues or local organizations, and not being able to find local organizations or lack of roles for youth in those organizations. 

Priorities for Future Communities

In light of Simcoe County’s municipalities undergoing major planning decisions via Municipal Comprehensive Reviews (MCRs) at the time of the survey, we asked youth about some of their priorities regarding planning decisions:

  • 83% of youth felt that designing communities in ways that protect local forests, wetlands and animal habitats was ‘very’ or ‘extremely important’. 
  • 70% of youth felt that changing the way Simcoe County plans to adapt to climate change was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important.
  • 69% of youth felt that building what we need in existing communities to avoid expanding on to more land was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important. 
  • 68% of youth felt that it was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important that Simcoe County plans communities in ways that address social justice issues and climate change at the same time.

We asked youth to rank the importance of different aspects of community life that reflect the Complete Communities envisioned in Ontario’s Growth Plan:

  • 82% of youth ranked having different kinds of affordable housing available as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important; 
  • 48% identified being able to safely get places via active transportation as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important;
  • 62% said that having essential services close to home was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important; 
  •  78% said that access to healthy, affordable food close to home was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important to them;
  • 52% said that convenient public transit was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important; 
  • 65% identified having public spaces close to home was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important;
  • 71% ranked having greenspaces and parks close to home as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important

This implies that the smart growth policies our municipalities should be pursuing to conform to the Growth Plan, lower carbon emissions and create affordable housing resonates with most young people.

Photo of two young women looking down at the camera. Photo by Adam McCoid on Unsplash

Recommendations

Youth are concerned about the climate, want to see dramatic changes, and have a good understanding of many of the policy changes needed. This survey confirmed much of what we knew (Government of Canada, 2021), but gave some insights into where to engage local youth.

1. Meet youth where they are at.

Climate action should start where youth are at, both in terms of knowledge and experience, and literally where they are at: schools, clubs, youth organizations. Future partnerships and collaborations should attempt to include organizations/groups/institutions that are directed at youth or have youth programming, in addition to supporting youth-led organizations.

2. Educate the public, especially youth.

Linking the interconnections between local planning, local politics, community design, etc. with the broader narrative of climate change (that many youth already know and are wanting to act on), will likely make these local actions more relevant to youth.

This will empower them to feel like they can do something in response to their low confidence in local government. Making these connections is critical in tackling an emergency with such far reaching and intersectional impacts. Awareness around the interconnections between climate and other issues, such as housing, food security or health, can help residents better understand what local climate action can look like. The more connections made, the more options and opportunities for people with various backgrounds, interests and priorities to take action where they are, so that everyone in the community can move towards climate justice. 

3. Link knowledge and awareness with action and advocacy.

We know from climate justice and climate education discourse that simply learning about or knowing about the impacts of climate change is not enough to move people to action. Action-oriented approaches that move from awareness to action bridge the gap and lessen feelings of apathy and distrust. Focusing resources on youth-led initiatives, roles and projects that are taken seriously is something that organizations and local governments would be wise to look into. 

We hope that this project and any insights gained from it can help or motivate other organizations and local governments to build on these efforts to identify and eliminate barriers that youth face in engaging with their communities. Similarly, we recognize that a community survey is a small first step of what needs to be an ongoing process to create spaces for meaningful participation by youth in their communities, including decision making processes.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • If you are a young person, get in touch with SCEYA to see about helping out. If you are an adult you can donate to SCEYA and, of course, SCGC.
  • Find SCEYA’s social media accounts and give them a follow.

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the view from inside: visions of the future

Our ability to create a different vision of the future opens up the paths to create those futures. Our ability to imagine these possibilities opens up what is actually possible, beyond the limits that are put on us. 

Good sci-fi tells us something meaningful about our own society. Imagination helps us envision better possible worlds.

Anyone else here a sci-fi fan?

I love stories that travel time and space, imagine possible futures and warn us of paths we may go down. I like fiction because of the power it holds – many of the worlds that sci-fi bring us to are far flung and fantastical, but good sci-fi tells us something meaningful about our own society. Fiction takes us to other worlds – or alternative versions of ours. 

But here’s the thing – the imagination, the capacity to reimagine, what our society looks like is much more than entertainment or escapism (although we need that sometimes too!). Our ability to create a different vision of the future opens up the paths to create those futures. Our ability to imagine these possibilities opens up what is actually possible, beyond the limits that are put on us. 

Fiction – whether writing, reading, drawing or watching – trains our minds in worldbuilding. The act of creating worlds – the history, environment and people of those worlds – is activism. But this isn’t just something that happens in fantasy novels, superhero movies or premium streaming channels. 

Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is something that we do, that you do, every day. We live in a world impacted by our actions; how we live, eat, work, all builds up to create a version of our world. What we do and how we do it is shaped by our histories and those of the places we live in. The past interacts with our present and, depending on our actions, creates a certain version of the future. 

We are worldbuilding the future, our future, every day. So let’s make it a good one.

“We are worldbuilding the future, our future, every day. So let’s make it a good one.”

Visions of the future

Many activists, especially women of colour and Indigenous peoples, have used fiction to create alternative pasts, presents and futures that are anti-racist and decolonial – to create worlds that operate outside of current power structures. This can happen through fiction writing, public artworks, and community organizing. Imagining different versions of our society is empowering, especially for those who are marginalized in our current society.

Fiction can help us understand the massive implications of climate change. Creating narratives to understand our situation helps us cope so that we can see a path to the future instead of overwhelming uncertainty and fear. Especially when those narratives are hopeful ones.

The thing is, those kinds of futures are possible when we can imagine them. This is part of why youth are leading the calls for change – real change, the kind that transforms the systems themselves, not just making changes within the system like many adults do.

Having visions of the future that are not limited by what the current political and economic systems tell us is possible, is what makes these alternative futures possible.

We haven’t been bombarded with messages about “it’s just the way it is” as long as many adults have – we haven’t given into the acceptance and fatalism of the status quo.

A certain kind of economics, politics and social structure has been drilled into people, especially at the end of the 20th century – we didn’t get as much of this as our parents did. We are growing up at a time when these systems are in crisis, on the verge of collapse, or reckoning. We’re seeing the consequences of how things have been run.

We know that this kind of selfish, exploitative, unsustainable politics (usually called ‘neoliberalism’) can’t go on – for people or the Earth. The myth of infinite economic growth, founded on colonialism and racism, the myth of unbridled consumption, the myth that The Market will save us – we aren’t buying it.

“The myth of infinite economic growth, founded on colonialism and racism, the myth of unbridled consumption, the myth that The Market will save us – we aren’t buying it.”

Imagine a future built to care for each other and the natural world

Young people, you, can imagine new ways of living in the world that exist outside of the current systems. The world that we build through our activism, even if it starts out as a small space in your community or school, like a pocket dimension, will open up the metaphorical portals to those alternative futures that are just, sustainable, and capable of changing for new climate realities.

Worlds where our social and economic systems are built to care for each other and the natural world, where we have truly participatory decision making, where joy and love and creativity are valued – in place of this hollow machine that takes and takes.

Our activism is worldbuilding.

Together, we are more than able to create the future that we want, that aligns with our vision of the future for our communities.

This looks different in different places. It could be youth writing climate fiction that tells the story of how we had the courage to change everything; it could be art co-ops making public art works telling stories of climate adaptation that centers social justice; it could look like blockades in solidarity with Indigenous Land Protectors to create a place of activism outside of colonialism; it could be neighbourhoods that take back public space and do things differently; it could be students working together to change what their education looks like to prepare them for futures of climate crisis.

What visions of the future will you build with your community?

What alternative futures can you imagine?

Kelly, signing off.

Kelly Gingrich

Kelly Gingrich

SCGC Youth Engagement Lead

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Send Kelly a message letting her know that you’d like to get involved. She can put you in touch with other youth organizing on the ground in Simcoe County.
  2. Work on your influencer game! Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, most ‘influencers’ are bought and paid for by corporations who don’t have any interest in building a better world. Social media is a thing, for better or worse, and it desperately needs young people who are good at communicating important issues in a way that is fun and accessible.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Climate Anxiety and Youth: Prioritizing Mental Health When it Come to Climate Advocacy

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

Extremes are more common and more intense

If you have been following the development of climate change and the ongoing fight against it, you have most likely heard of climate anxiety. 

It goes by many different names, such as eco-anxiety, climate distress, climate change anxiety or climate anxiety, but they all describe the psychological effects of climate change brought by living during the climate crisis.

Especially in recent years, we have seen the disastrous effects brought by a changing climate. It seems every year temperatures are hitting extremes and severe weather events are more common and intense. 

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

The rabbit hole of bad news

With easily accessible, widespread coverage of these events on social media, it is easier than ever to see world events. With the increase in natural disasters and health concerns caused by the changing climate, there always seems to be a new video to watch of the world literally burning. That, paired with the reports scientists have been releasing explaining how the world is heading towards certain doom, makes it extremely easy to fall down the rabbit hole of bad news and become overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. 

Climate anxiety is born from these experiences, and because of their experiences growing up during the climate crisis, youth are especially susceptible to climate anxiety. We are constantly being shown images and videos of the effects of climate change, and many have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness on these issues by sharing on social media. Therefore, it is even easier for youth to get swept up in the flood of anxiety that comes with being immersed in horrifying news.

It leads to youth feeling hopeless, afraid and dejected. In fact, from my experiences talking to my siblings, classmates and friends about the climate crisis, there seem to be two responses.

Firstly: they are extremely concerned about the issue and want to know everything about it. They are constantly monitoring the situation and always have new (and oftentimes depressing) stories to share on social media or during conversations. 

Secondly: they are also extremely concerned about the issue, but the anxiety is so overwhelming that they completely avoid thinking about the problem. Though it is always in the back of their mind, they are convinced we are doomed, that it is too late, that the problem is too large and there are too many obstacles in the way. They hate hearing about new developments because it only adds to their anxiety.

It is apparent in both cases that youth are incredibly stressed about this issue. Climate anxiety is widespread and affects so many people, but youth are carrying the brunt of it.

“Climate anxiety is widespread and affects so many people, but youth are carrying the brunt of it.”

How can youth find a balance between mental health and advocacy?

For youth climate activists, this anxiety might have pushed them into getting involved with a local organization, or creating one of their own. However, being motivated by fear is not sustainable. It only leads to higher amounts of stress, burnout and causes youth to feel as if they are not accomplishing enough to make any difference. It leads to youth dropping out of the environmentalist scene before they can even begin to create change, creating a vicious cycle that quickly deteriorates our mental health.

Obviously, this is not healthy for youth’s development or the fight against climate change. How can youth overcome climate anxiety and find a balance between mental health and advocacy?

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Collaboration and community are key

Engaging in place based advocacy will grow the connection one has to their natural environments and community, and seeing the change you helped create be implemented where you live can be incredibly heartening. As well, activism is not an independent task. Use the support from your team and community. We do not have to solve everything or do everything ourselves – we all have a part to play. Climate activism is not a competition, and collaboration between different groups can produce amazing results and build lasting relationships along the way.

Celebrate the small wins

Climate change is a massive problem, and it is impossible to take everything on at once because it contains so many smaller issues. When your group or a nearby one makes a breakthrough in a campaign or accomplishes something, celebrate that win – no matter how small. We work so hard and are so passionate about what we do, it’s important we give ourselves credit for what we accomplish. This will also help build momentum within our groups and the larger community, increasing motivation and optimism.

Knowing when to step away

Climate activism, especially advocacy, is hard work. Sometimes the best thing for someone’s mental health is turning off their phone and taking some time to recover. This is especially important for young people as we are already leading the fight against climate change and will continue to for many years to come – we don’t want budding climate activists to be snuffed out by the stress of the work before any change can be created.

Sprinkle in some good news stories

Although we are constantly bombarded with the latest depressing news about the state of our climate, there are so many small wins that are overlooked. Take some time to read some good news stories regarding the environment. Negative news always takes precedence in our minds, so combatting it with plenty of optimistic stories will boost motivation and provide a much needed positive outlook on this work. 

Scientists have made it clear that even if we act now against climate change, it is inevitable that the situation is going to get worse before it improves. However, if we can develop the emotional resilience necessary to keep fighting, we can emerge on the other side intact – and in a greener world.

I’ve linked some good news stories about the environment down below – I think everyone needs some good climate news. As well, there is a link to SCGC’s Local Issues Map, so you can see which issues are being debated in your community and start making an impact in your local area.

Click the image for a link to the article.

Like always, let me know your opinions on this subject. Have you or anyone you know experienced climate anxiety, and do you have any other strategies to overcome these feelings? Let me know in the comments down below.

Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you next time,

Blythe

 Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe is SCGC's inaugural summer youth advocacy intern. She is a high school student in Orillia, a competitive swimmer, and president of Sustainable Orillia's Youth Council.

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Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Youth Survey

Youth are often left out of the decision-making process, even though the decisions that are made will have the greatest impact on them, shaping their world for decades to come.

We think this should change. Help by sharing your voice, and get engaged!

Simcoe County and municipalities across Ontario are conducting planning reviews that will determine how cities and towns look like in 30 to 50 year’s time, but they aren’t doing a great job of listening to youth.

This needs to change. It is the youth who will inherit these communities, after all, and the problems that result from planning decisions made today.

In partnership with the Simcoe County Environmental Youth Alliance (SCEYA), as well as others, SCGC is helping to provide opportunities for youth to get engaged in these processes.

The survey below is a first step. The answers you provide will help form the basis of a report on the priorities of young people, from addressing climate change to creating communities that are more fair and more accessible.

Create your own user feedback survey

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The view from inside: intergenerational collabs

Cross-group organizing is a real threat to those in power, which is why we see a lot of attempts to get some people to believe that other people are to blame for their problems. When people see another group as the cause of their problems, it gives them somewhere to direct their very real frustration and anger. 

Young people are undoubtedly leading the movement for climate justice. As you should be. 

But we should also talk about the potential that working across generations could bring. We’re all familiar with the rivalries between generations – GenZ vs Millennials and of course, the Boomers (I’m sure there’s a meme coming to mind as you read this). 

And sure, some seniors just don’t get it. But others do. We need to remember that they’ve lived through major social and political changes, and many of them were the activists and radicals of their time and are still fighting, whether we see them or not.

deliberate division

Division between groups – whether along racial lines, between the middle and working classes, or between generations – is created to prevent this kind of solidarity. We’ve seen similar things with traditional environmentalism and social justice in the move towards climate justice (a divide that has been closing in recent years thanks to the intersectionality of youth, especially BIPOC youth).

Cross-group organizing is a real threat to those in power, which is why we see a lot of attempts to get some people to believe that other people are to blame for their problems. When people see another group as the cause of their problems, it gives them somewhere to direct their very real frustration and anger. 

“Division between groups – whether along racial lines, between the middle and working classes, or between generations – is created to prevent this kind of solidarity.”

This kind of conflict, often made worse by existing inequalities like racism and xenophobia, keeps people fighting each other instead of recognizing that a lot of the problems each group faces come from the same systems of power. Because if they realize this, then they can team up against that very system and be much more powerful together. 

When people reach out and form relationships across groups, it makes each group stronger and creates allies.

intergenerational collabs

Especially on the local level, a lot of the people in the climate action scene are from older generations – and many of them have been doing this for a long time. They have experience and can be valuable allies for youth-led climate justice. The youth-led part is still super important, but making space for those with different experiences and wisdom could be an advantage. 

People from older generations have experience campaigning, organizing, fundraising, deposing. They know local politics and politicians better, know how the systems work, and have general life experience that can be really helpful to learn from. 

And youth activists have the energy, imagination and boldness to make more radical demands. You’ve got the most to lose, aren’t caught up in the drama of local politics, understand the connections between environment and social justice, and have a new way of doing politics and dare to create different systems.

“People from older generations have experience campaigning, organizing, fundraising, deposing. They know local politics and politicians better, know how the systems work, and have general life experience that can be really helpful to learn from.”

we both have a lot of the same problems

Today, there’s a lot of division between us and seniors. There aren’t a lot of spaces where younger and older generations interact in any meaningful way other than between family members.  

But the thing is that we have a lot in common, just in different ways. Our experiences are both often devalued. We both face social and physical barriers to participating in society.

Seniors face barriers to social participation in the form of:

  • Lack of knowledge of digital technology use 
  • Some can no longer drive
  • Those who are retired have limits on income
  • Lack of accommodation for physical or health limitations
  • Many must spend their days in residences or long-term care homes, usually separated from the rest of the community
  • Often aren’t taken seriously  

Young people face barriers in the form of:

  • Lack of formal knowledge and qualifications like degrees or job experience
  • Can’t legally vote
  • Some can’t yet drive
  • Many must spend their days in schools, usually separated from the rest of the community
  • Some who work part-time have limits on income
  • Often aren’t taken seriously 

These are generalizations of course, but they are real barriers for many.

Both groups would benefit from more accessible social and political participation. Both would benefit from complete communities. Both would benefit from affordable housing. You get the idea – there’s similarities and opportunities to team up.

We can learn from past movements – collaboration and solidarity between groups can create a much stronger movement and, as history shows us, can make or break a movement completely. 

What do you think about making space for intergenerational collabs in activism? 

Kelly, signing off. 

P.S – I think of these blog posts as an ongoing discussion. You can share your comments below, on social media (links below!) or get in touch with me at kelly@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca.

Kelly Gingrich

Kelly Gingrich

Kelly is SCGC's Youth Engagement Lead. She has a M.Ed. from OISE, and a B.A. (Hons) from Laurentian, where she specialized in Sociology. She's particularly interested in environmental education

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How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Help us advocate for better planning, which brings people together in a myriad of ways to enhance social cohesion and embrace vibrant differences.
  2. Join For Our Kids and GASP. Both are networks of older generations fighting to ensure the world we leave to our children is a healthy and thriving one.
  3. Support FridaysForFuture and other youth-driven action organizations. As an adult make sure that you are support youth, rather than taking over.

Further Reading

Related Content

Education vs. Advocacy-Based Activism: What is Stopping Youth?

How often do youth actually get a say in municipal politics? Youth voices – especially those of high school students – youth that are transitioning into adulthood – deserve a place at the table when it comes to making decisions at the local level.

You see it on social media, in schools and in the community – youth activists spreading awareness about issues affecting the environment.  However, how often do you see youth groups that create change at the political level? How often do youth actually get a say in municipal politics? Youth voices – especially those of high school students – youth that are transitioning into adulthood – deserve a place at the table when it comes to making decisions at the local level.

Youth are experienced

Youth are experienced in and have been successful at educating other youth on environmental issues through social media, face-to-face conversations, and awareness projects in schools. In the community, we plant trees, organize nature walks, pick up garbage and raise money for bigger organizations.

These initiatives are all undoubtedly important and are a cornerstone of activism and community engagement. Youth are great at these education-based initiatives, however too often we see youth initiatives finish or fizzle out before real, lasting change can be made.

Photo of two girls planting a tree. Credit Eyoel Kahssay.

Initiatives like these do help local communities, yet the larger, even more impactful change that youth groups are looking for can be found within advocacy.

Speaking to politicians, protesting actions or influencing local communities to create greener policies and protect the environment. Advocacy is bringing (some might say forcing) youth environmentalism into the adult spheres we are often isolated from or aren’t welcomed into.

Seeing the political changes created thanks to youth advocacy will further motivate groups to keep pushing for a greener future, and it can help fight some of the burnout or mental health struggles that come with focusing on short-term solutions.

Why is it so difficult?

All that aside, why is it so difficult for youth to begin engaging in and developing their own advocacy initiatives? Why aren’t they taking part in public meetings, or getting involved in local politics?

In short, youth groups don’t have the tools, information or support they need in order to begin advocating.

A key reason why more youth initiatives aren’t advocacy-based is because youth groups simply do not have the resources or information necessary to get involved.

We are being kept in the dark about the topics and policies being debated right within our communities – developments that will directly affect our futures.

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

“…youth groups don’t have the tools, information or support they need in order to begin advocating.

Simcoe County's future.

For example, Simcoe County is undergoing a Municipal Comprehensive Review.

The county is deciding how the land will be used, how much we will protect our natural heritage sites and watersheds, and whether or not we will introduce policies that fight and prevent climate change. The decisions they make now will be in place until 2051 – yep, THIRTY YEARS – and will affect the health of Simcoe County (and area) for many years after.

In 2051 I will be 46 years old. I will be part of the adult population. So why is it that youth voices are not being sought out regarding policies that will directly affect them? 

It is crucial that youth groups in Simcoe County begin advocating on environmental issues NOW, especially while the MCR is being developed.

Why advocacy is so important.

If youth aren’t aware of something as large and literally life-altering as the MCR, imagine all the smaller issues that we aren’t aware of; issues that can still affect our environment, way of life, and futures. This is why youth advocacy is so important – our voices must be heard on these topics as we are the ones that will have to grow up and live in the society created from these decisions.

Advocacy will be more difficult for youth groups to engage in compared to the short-term education initiatives we’re used to.

We won’t be taken seriously and we’ll have to be ready to get our boots dirty and remain persistent if we want to get things done – especially in the face of politicians that aren’t willing to take our opinions into consideration.

But if there’s one thing we’ve seen in youth it is that they are bold, courageous and determined to protect their futures – even if it means ruffling a few feathers along the way.

“If youth aren’t aware of something as large and literally life-altering as the MCR, imagine all the smaller issues that we aren’t aware of; issues that can still affect our environment, way of life, and futures.”

At the end of the day, we can plant as many trees as we want, but if youth groups don’t increase their advocacy initiatives, their impact will not be large enough to create the change they want to see: the real, systemic, earth-saving changes that are most successful when they come from the bottom up.

That impact is found where the adults are. It is found in public meetings, outside of offices, in the streets, and eventually, inside the voting booths. Who knows, maybe with enough youth advocacy politicians will see just how powerful youth voices – and votes – can be.

Let’s go show our local politicians just how ready we are to fight for our futures!

~

Like always, let me know your thoughts on or experiences with this subject.

Looking for some community issues? Check out some of the initiatives SCGC is exploring:

The Bradford Bypass: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/bradford-bypass/

Protecting Lake Simcoe: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/protect-lake-simcoe/ 

Local Issues Map: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/map/ 

That’s all for now,

Blythe 🙂

Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe is SCGC's inaugural summer youth advocacy intern. She is a high school student in Orillia, a competitive swimmer, and president of Sustainable Orillia's Youth Council.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Follow (and join?) the Simcoe County Environmental Youth Alliance (SCEYA) and Sustainable Orillia’s Youth Council.
  2. Sign up for our newsletter (bottom of the page) to support future youth initiatives. (We’ve got plans! 🙂)
  3. See if there’s a local FridaysForFuture group you can support. If you’re supporting as an adult make sure to empower the youth who are engaged.
  4. Share this post on social media and get involved in the conversation using the comments below!

Further Reading

Related Content

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

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