Finding a purpose in climate change reform

Climate change is a problem that is both multifaceted and universally impactful to the current and future generations of society. Learning about this ongoing crisis and drawing lines to minimize our community’s carbon footprint is what the Vancouver Public Library and UBC Climate Hub’s workshops are all about.

The Youth Climate Ambassadors Workshop in action | Photo by Esmé Decker

“We believe connection is crucial for bringing more youth into the climate movement,” says Esmé Decker, the Youth Climate Ambassadors Project (YCAP) coordinator at UBC Climate Hub.

The Vancouver Public Library will host the Youth Climate Ambassadors Workshop in collaboration with the UBC Climate Hub on Aug. 3, 2022, at the Central Branch. It will be an engaging afternoon of exploring ways to become a climate ambassador around the community. The session will introduce youth to concepts of climate justice through storytelling and peer-to-peer interactions.

Finding purpose and community

The Youth Climate Ambassadors Workshop brings awareness to climate change issues around the community. The project is a collaboration between UBC Climate Hub and Be the Change Earth Alliance, a climate education charity based in Vancouver.

“The goal is to foster hope and agency by empowering participants with the knowledge, resources, and confidence to become ‘Climate Ambassadors’ in their own communities,” says Decker.

Of Japanese-Irish descent, Decker is currently a rising junior at UBC in the English Honors program for Language and Literature, with a minor in Environment and Society. During the summer of 2020, Decker and Sustainabiliteens, a youth climate strike group in Metro-Vancouver, held a variety of online events, one of which was the virtual pilot version of the YCAP workshop. After arriving at UBC that fall, Decker started volunteering with the UBC Climate Hub. Ever since then, she has been on the YCAP admin team and is helping to organize more workshops around Vancouver.

“This workshop aims to add a climate justice lens to youths’ views on their experience of the world and how they personally can use their voice to change the world for the better,” explains Decker.

Whether in-person or virtual, YCAP workshops consist of climate storytelling sessions in community settings, including high school classrooms around Vancouver. As a coordinator, Decker connects with teachers and community leaders to plan workshops. These sessions centre around several prompts to guide a storyboard format, encouraging people to reflect on images and emotions about our changing climate, and also the resistance efforts associated with it. In these workshops, university student volunteers lead and facilitate honest, vulnerable conversations regarding climate justice and community-based climate solutions.

For over two years, these workshops have engaged participants from elementary school, to high school, to university. YCAP is an eye-opening experience for many. Through collaboration, finding solutions and learning ways to make an impact in a community has become easier.

“Many students have said the workshop helped them move from a place of hopelessness to feeling a new sense of hope and realizing the power they have to use their own voices to speak up for climate action and justice,” says Decker.

Long-lasting impacts

YCAP is a safe space to find community with other climate change advocates. Oftentimes, current climate narratives focus on the hopeless aspects of the crisis, which is demoralizing for students.

“The Youth Climate Ambassadors Project offers an alternative perspective that highlights how the climate movement can be filled with hope, community and purpose,” says Decker.

Most students are aware that climate change is a serious problem, and UBC Climate Hub’s workshops aim to have students find their voice and enact change for the better. The workshop lets youth discover personal stories to connect with others and tackle issues together.

“We want youth to know that taking action as a community is ultimately the most powerful thing you can do,” Decker explains.

In the past, a few YCAP alumni have spoken at the City Council and created real policy change in Vancouver. The workshop instills hope in the next generation of youth–participants feel more together. Through these discussions, youth lead the charge for a vision of a better future.

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