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Talking to the Youth


If I could afford it, I would quite my job and spend my time doing what I was doing last Thursday at 11 am.  That is, speak to today’s youth about the realities of climate change.

Last Thursday, at 11 am, I was in a small auditorium in front about 100 students (grades 9-12) and teachers, giving a presentation about climate change.  The presentation was an adaptation of the talk I have given on a few occasions to the general public.  I explain what the greenhouse effect is, what the carbon cycle is, how human activity has affected that cycle, and how that is affecting our climate.  And I’m fairly brutal about it.  I mention Bill McKibben’s global warming math (how much carbon the fossil fuel industry has access to and our “carbon budget” to limit warming to 2 degrees C), the fact that “business-as-usual” means a warming of somewhere near 6 degrees and how 4 degrees is “hell on Earth”.

My presentation also addresses what needs to be done about our warming planet: adaptation and mitigation.  And I include the advantages of those actions.  For example, getting off of fossil fuels would eliminate the pollution that comes from our “modern” extraction methods such as hydraulic fracturing, off-shore drilling and whatever it is that they are doing in the Tar Sands mines of Alberta.  Stopping the combustion of coal, gas and oil would also save the lives of the 1.3 million people around the world that die every year from outdoor air pollution (according to the World Health Organization) – and that includes 21,000 Canadians.

I also discuss the careers that they should consider in the new “green economy”, from installing wind turbines and solar panels to designing efficient, modern buildings.  And I mention the work done in countries like Germany (a separate post on that in the near future) and Denmark and how Canada has even more potential for renewables that those countries.

However, I hope that the most important message they keep from my presentation is that they can do something about this.  Climate change is a problem created by the previous generations, however it is they and their children that will bear the brunt of our mistakes and our inaction.  But, I tell them that they have more power than they realize.  Although most of the kids I spoke to cannot yet vote, by the next federal and provincial elections, they will.  And they can use that leverage when talking to the media or when talking to politicians.  Imagine a generation of new voters, voting on climate change policy.  That would be amazing!

Until now, response has been very good.  Students and teachers have been positive in their feedback.  One student in particular seemed genuinely moved and would like to aim his career in order to address the challenge.  And the grade 11 students, as part of their French class (!), are actually working on concrete actions that could be taken to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.  Some of the ideas include getting classes to turn off their lights when they aren’t necessary, banning plastic water bottles in our school and having one day a month where no computers are turned on.  SWEET!

I am very motivated by this, and I want to do more of it!  That is why I’ve begun to contact other schools on PEI to see if they would allow me to present to their students.  Luckily, I have a supportive principal that will allow me to take time off (at my expense) in order to go talk to other schools.  I am also working with my department at the University of Prince Edward Island, which gives me so added credibility when contacting school principals.

Like Bill McKibben has said, there is nothing more important that I could be doing right now.


12 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/11/20 6:41 am

    Hi Jocelyn, that sounds really great. Please keep at it!
    Also, I am very much looking forward to read your post about Germany. 😉
    Guess, I should write something about the current political discourse as well. I feel that we Germans are just getting cold feet in the face of what has to be done in order to manage the energy transition. Network extension is not progressing very well and electricity prices are going to rise considerably in January inter alia due to Renewable Energy Law. There is so much work to be done and nobody dares to do it because we will have federal elections next year. 😦
    Best wishes from the other side of the planet!

    • 2012/11/20 12:09 pm

      I hear about the new price increase. But, like anything else, you get what you pay for! And the only reason the “old” energy is still relatively cheap is because a) it is subsidized more than renewables, and b) the environmental, social and economic cost of things like climate change, oil spills and air pollution are not taken into consideration. If it was, we would have been all driving electric cars a long time ago! (That last statement is not based on any scientific fact 🙂 )

      • 2012/11/23 1:19 pm

        You’re not wrong: were it not for the greed and shortsightedness of a few, we would indeed have been all driving electric cars a long time ago

      • 2012/11/24 8:16 am

        Great post. Thanks for the link.
        I remember visiting the Ottawa (Canada) Science and Technology museum and reading about how the first automobiles were powered by fuel, coal and batteries. Mr. Porsche’s (THE Mr Porsche, can’t remember his first name) first automobile (or one of his first) was electric.
        My next car is electric. No excuses.

      • 2012/11/28 6:16 pm

        My next car is electric.

        As will mine be*… but only once my current one dies.

        *Unless, of course, we finally get some decent public transport infrastructure development that would make these daft metal boxes on wheels totally redundant. Sadly, I think porcine aviation is far more likely…

      • 2012/11/28 8:04 pm

        I miss the days when I took the bus everyday. You don’t need to worry about traffic, you can relax, read. And now that we have iPods and the like, you can actually be productive, or play games. I would love to take public transit to work. Unfortunately, we have the same problem with lack of investment!

  2. Trudy permalink
    2012/11/20 11:25 am

    Such a worthwhile contribution you are making! Encouraging kids as citizens, a near future voters is a powerful way to engage them in strengthening democracy. Thanks!

    • 2012/11/20 12:05 pm

      Thank you. I really enjoy it, and I hope that the kids take the message seriously. Up until now, it seems like they are.

  3. 2012/11/20 4:24 pm

    Wonderful work, JP, thanks for all you’re doing!

  4. 2012/11/22 12:33 am

    Your audience is growing. Passion and commitment plus action. You are on a good path my friend.

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