In 2018, I went to a Conference, which I won’t name, pertaining to environmental issues. I had a great time, but there was something that stuck out to me from that experience. I remember sitting in the room and hearing someone say something along the lines of “the youth don’t care, all they care about is playing video games”. Yes, this happened, and yes, it angered me. I remember wanting to raise my hand and say “Hello! I am a youth! I am here and I care!”. This is a stigma that many people still unfortunately believe. There is a stigma that youth simply don’t care, that we’re too invested in our phones to actually care about something else. Youth have shown time and time again that we truly do care. We’re anxious, we’re angry, and we’re willing to dedicate our time to restoring our planet for our future and future generations. You don’t have to look far for an example of this, at 16 years old, Greta Thunberg started an international movement addressing the climate crisis that is still being protested around the world to this day.
There’s another misconception that I have unfortunately faced as youth, people think that because we’re young we don’t know anything. However, when you look at the age range of youth, it mainly falls between 18-35 (depending on the organizations guidelines). This means that we have experience, either academically, or from our time going out and exploring what the world has to offer. We have valuable knowledge and experiences that offer a different perspective on how to save our planet from more irreversible damage. We have urgency to do so. Sometimes I think of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen, such as the sunset on the Georgian Bay, or the vast amount of stars over me in the Chilean Atacama Desert. I also like to think of the areas I have yet to visit, such as the wildlife and sights in parts of Africa, or the oceans bustling with an abundance of species in Australia. I think to myself how sad it would be that we got to the point where my generation and future generations are deprived of seeing these natural beauties again.
Finally, I think that it there is so much talk about “the youth” from different parties, but these voices almost never come from actual youth. In certain recent events in Canada, which I once again will not name, the word “youth” came up approximately 50 times. The people speaking about the youth were saying “well, the youth think…” or “for the youth”, but in this event, there was no actual youth voice. I appreciate any time that there is someone who wants to advocate for the youth, but I believe that it’s important to allow us to have our own voices heard rather than relayed. In these critical moments when there are conversations that are important to the youth, it is beneficial to have an actual youth voice at the table.
On this International Youth Day, I believe that it is more important than ever to remember that the time for youth is now. Speak with youth, listen to youth, and include the youth.
Organizational Development Coordinator, Canadian Youth Biodiversity Network