Next Generation!

Youth are angry, scared... and very motivated — so why aren't we engaging them more in our environmental movements? Practical suggestions from the horse's mouth.

Celesta Buchanan

From the People's Climate March rally in New York City, Sept. 21 2014. Photo: Alejandro Alvarez

Young people care deeply about the environmental crisis, but are often left out of local efforts and decision making. It is vitally important for us to be able to stand up and fight for what is ours. Our future is under attack; its fate is dependent on the decisions being made right now.

We were born into this world, left having to clean up this mess. Yes, we are angry; yes, we are scared, but more than that we are ready to help and we are inspired to be a part of the solution.

So if the youth are so motivated why is it we are not often present in environmental organizations and efforts? The gaping disconnect between youth and community leaders hinders us. It is impossible for young people to become involved if they do not know the organizations or how to contact them. However, it is not usually because these groups don’t want youth to help, but more so because they do not know how to reach us.

Recruiting young people is not as difficult as some may believe. We are motivated by our fears and hopes for the future. We also have a selfish ultimatum to collect volunteer hours as they are required for graduation and they are essential for post-secondary applications. If the opportunities are advertised to us we will take part. It is possible to advertise volunteer opportunities through the career centers at the local high schools. Students will be notified through announcements and given further information if interested. This reaches out to a large number of youth all at once.

There are numerous ways to do this online as well. The simplest is to have updated and interesting social media pages. It’s great if youth can see pictures from your group and read about opportunities there as well. Instagram and Facebook are great for this. Another option would be to have a website with a page dedicated to advertising youth volunteer opportunities. The link for this could be placed on posters, social media pages and in school announcements. It is important for youth to know about these organizations and that they are accessible.

It is very important that youth volunteers feel valued and that we are able to contribute our ideas to the cause. While helping out with events and projects is fun and rewarding, we have ideas and skills to contribute as well. These enthusiastic youth ambassadors want to make a difference and should be given the opportunities to do so.

Have faith in us, invite us to meetings and ask for our opinions. After all it is the future we are fighting for and “the children are our future.” We deserve to hear these discussions and to have a voice in these efforts.

The environmental crisis affects young people immensely, we care about our planet and we want to take action before it’s too late. We must bridge this gap between environmental organizations and inspired youth so that we can be a part of the solution. The time and effort spent acquiring youth involvement will be worth it, as we will continue to contribute our passion, hard work and ideas for years to come.

Celesta Buchanan attends Mark Isfeld Secondary School in Courtenay BC, where she initiated and currently leads the Environment Club. The members are Iu Vilaseca Juan, Alyssa Erikson, Amelia Candy, Natalie Muir, Kamryn McMillan, Sidney Brown, Jillian Stelfox, Anya Boisvert, and Celesta Buchanan.

Watershed Sentinel Original Content

5 Issues/yr — $25 print; $15 digital