Youth inspired to protect the environment 0
SEAN CHASE The sixth annual Eco Pulse Conference was held over the past weekend at the Marguerite Centre. The conference's participants and facilitators included: (front left to right) Chloe St. Amand, Alexann Hawkins, Rahul Mehta, Amanda Mackay, Kayla Henry, Taylor Robinson, Alyson Wallace, Sam Graham (back left to right) Marie-Pierre Daigle, Sheldon Leroux, Bridget Graham, Amber Kingsbury, Claire Hendrickson-Jones, James William Bell, Laura Bateson, Grace Hendrickson-Jones, Meghan Kingsbury, Bryan Switzer and Moe Oureshi.
An environmental conference hoping to inspire youth into making positive change for their communities and the world they live in wrapped up over the weekend in Pembroke.
The sixth annual Eco Pulse Conference concluded at the Marguerite Centre leaving many of its 17 young participants inspired, empowered and informed.
The focus of the three-day gathering was how to utilize social media to spread the message that people show tread lighter on the planet and embrace green initiatives. It also contained workshops on the vitality of the community garden, the development organic and sustainable farming, and astronomy.
Eco Pulse facilitator Bridget Graham said this group really understood how complex the issue of environmentalism is noting that the many guest speakers were surprised at engaged they were.
"That really helps the youth realize that they can make change," said Ms. Graham. "An experience like this can completely change your life. That's really powerful and that's what they will take away from here."
On Friday night, the conference opened with Matthew Higginson, coordinator of marketing and communications from the not-for-profit organization Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), delivering the keynote address. Founded in Toronto in 1995 as a small seed distribution project, LEAF has grown to raise public awareness, foster a sense of ownership, engage diverse communities, provide educational tools and resources and facilitate urban forest stewardship. The group promotes much of its mission through its backyard tree planting program, which offers native trees and shrubs to property owners at a subsidized cost.
Mr. Higginson noted that he didn’t fully appreciate the importance of fostering trees in an urban environment until he pushed himself away from technology to plant his first backyard tree in a new neighbourhood in the Greater Toronto Area.
“It was incredible to change a space in a positive way,” he said. “Healthy trees are the lungs of our cities. It’s important to get them in a position where they can fulfill that.”
LEAF also promotes the growth of native species instead of invasive species as the local brand are more adaptable, better suited and feed the biodiversity. The organization doesn’t seek out customers but partners who will invest in planting and fostering an urban forest.
It’s hard to change attitudes towards the environment, he noted, adding he gained an appreciation for the concept of “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” because he followed the cartoon character Captain Planet. Now, it bothers him to see places where he has visited and not have a recycle bin readily available. However, there are more opportunities now to keep the conversation going than ever before, thanks to social media.
“The democratization of the Internet has given the environmental movement access to a wider audience than ever before and also, at the same time on the other side of that, there’s more noise than ever before. There’s millions of messages around there floating and at any moment you have to have a compelling message to break through,” Mr. Higginson said. “It gives us both an opportunity and a challenge.”
He said this was evident when he attended the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or the Copenhagen Summit. Without social media, this event would have been relegated to the back pages of the newspaper, he added.
“It became a hive of like-minded individuals all working together to really show what kind of world we wanted to live in,” noted Mr. Higginson. “It didn’t really give us a seat but it gave us a giant megaphone.”
Among the group of participants was Sam Graham, a graduate of Jeanne Lajoie, who gained a better understanding of biodiversity, sustainability, green energy and green construction. He learned that with so many advances in technology, fossil fuels could one day be replaced with clean energy.
"Anything is possible. There's so many clean ways to produce energy," said Mr. Graham. "Fossil fuels aren't the answer and in the long run sustainable energy will pay for itself. We shouldn't try to fix an outdated system. We should just move on."
The youngest participant was Taylor Robinson, a grade six student from Beachburg Public School. She said she learned so much about recycling and having more respect for the environment.
"I'm going to start thinking more about composting and what things we can recycle around the house and around the school," said Taylor.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist