My Weekend As A #WorldEnvironmentDay Youth Ambassador

I’m back baby!!!! After a month of no internet, and the multitude of problems that accompany not having internet, I’ve got everything set up once again!  And it’s just in time too.  We are currently in the midst of Canadian Environment Week, which was kicked off this past weekend with World Environment Day being celebrated on Monday.  For those of you not in the know, World Environment Day is a UN created day, all about celebrating positive environmental action.  For this year, Canada was fortunate enough to be chosen as the host country, with the theme of “Connecting people to nature”, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of Canada’s six Youth Ambassadors for the day.  The day (well day and a half truthfully) was filled with tons of stuff, and I’d like to share with you all today what all went down.

To start, here’s a quick recap: Jack Johnson, along with Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Erik Solheim, UN Global Ambassador Rocky Dawuni, and other UN members kicked of Canadian Environment Week, minutes before Jack Johnson performed in Toronto on Sunday.  The Youth Ambassadors, the #WEDCan video contest winners, and the Youth Ambassador to UN Environment joined the Minister and the UN team for dinner later that night.  The next day, this same group kicked off World Environment Day with a kayak session on the Niagara River with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, followed by statements by Trudeau, McKenna, and Solheim on the importance of the environment.  The was followed by a Facebook Live youth panel (starts around the 55 minute mark) on board the C3 icebreaker- the ship making a 150 day voyage, from Toronto to Vancouver, through the Northwest Passage.  It was a busy day and a half.

Right of the bat, I just want to say that I’m very proud to have been chosen as a Youth Ambassador, and of the statements made by Trudeau and McKenna concerning Canada’s role in combating climate change and the US’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement (here’s Trudeau’s official statement as well).  The group of young people I was surrounded by are doing amazing things for the environment and for their communities, and I can’t say enough about the amazing things they do, and the amazing people they are.  Here’s a quick bio of all of the young people also chosen as Youth Ambassadors (and yes they are all far more amazing than I am).  Unfortunately, not all of the Youth Ambassadors were able to make it (as some were in other countries being awesome), but I was fortunate enough to meet Maatalii Okalik, Neha Rahman, and Roberto Chavez (filling in for Meredith Adler), along with Matthew Isen (the Youth Ambassador to UN Environment), Heather Harris and Joel Woznow (the video contest winners), and Kim Mathieu and Eva Wu (Youth Ambassadors for Parks Canada).  I can’t say enough about all of these amazing people, suffice to say I was humbled to be surrounded by all of them.

There’s a sentiment here, I believe, that we are not doing enough for the environment.  And while I definitely believe that we could, and should be doing more- and that we are far from perfect- I was pleasantly surprised by the opinions and thoughts of some of the UN team members that I met.  We have a very active Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and there is good work being done towards protecting our natural environment, ecosystems, and biodiversity, and I think we as Canadians should be proud of that- because people from other parts of the world are.  Now don’t get me wrong, we still have many issues with pipelines, with the oilsands, and with how we work with Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit communities when it comes to using their lands- reconciliation is still a ways off- but when a UN ambassador compliments your country, it’s hard not to feel a little bit of pride.

World Environment Day shouldn’t last just one day, or one week, of the year, though.  Each day it is important to fight for the protection of our natural resources, and I hope that the sentiments and statements made on June 5th extend past the end of this week, and turn into real, tangible actions.  This week needs to be followed up by stronger environmental protections, a stronger Paris Agreement plan, and a better framework for achieving the 17 percent of terrestrial areas, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, conservation goal, along with solutions to the issues mentioned above, to name a few.  If Canada wants to, unequivocally, be a global environmental leader, these are just some of the things we must do.  Everyday needs to be World Environment Day.