"But… you can't just change everything."
"Well, it's just - it's too much. How would everything work?"
Drastic, unimaginable changes have happened before, and they'll happen again.
That's an excerpt from a Wings of Change workshop. That particular conversation was taken from a recording of an eleventh grade class at Dartmouth High, but it could just as easily have been a summer camp in Nunavut, tenth graders in BC, a student conference in Nova Scotia or a group of university students sharing lunch in their student union building.
Wings of Change is a for-youth, by-youth climate education campaign that we've been constantly editing, building, developing and delivering since the fall of 2010. It was originally created by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition as a way to reach out to young Canadians as the COP16 United Nations Climate Negotiations approached. Today it's grown well beyond that.
The concept of "climate justice" can be (and has been) debated for hours, defined and redefined by rooms of activists and academics. We cover it in about 10 minutes with 10 volunteers from the class. Each volunteer represents 10% of the global population and we dole out tokens representing 10% of global wealth and 10% of global carbon emissions to each one. And then we wait. It usually takes about 5 seconds for someone from the class to point out that this is a completely unrealistic picture - that, like the impacts of climate change, neither pollution nor wealth is distributed equally. So, the class helps us set up a mirror to global demographics and we introduce the idea of common but differentiated responsibility. It's the founding tenant to the international efforts to solve climate change: we all have a responsibility to act on climate change, but nations who have profited for centuries from unchecked industrialization have both the obligation and the resources to take the first steps & the deepest cuts.
The workshops focus on understanding the science of climate change, the impacts on human life and the solutions, or at least the first steps, from individual changes to broad collective actions and innovative technologies. They finish with the Wings of Change national art project. After an hour of ups, downs, & tough discussions, students put their messages and their visions for Canada's future onto fabric feathers. Each feather eventually forms part of a wing on 6 foot bird sculptures that carry the voices of young Canadians to community art shows, panel discussions, international negotiations and, this fall, to Canadian Parliament.
So far we've reached almost 3000 students from coast to coast, and we're set to more than triple that number by the end of the year. Beyond our program, young people across Canada are getting involved in hundreds of similar groups, and they're having these conversations in schools, coffee shops and around the dinner table. We're working together to create a future that might be unimaginable to a few, but it's at the fingertips of millions of young people around the world.
Looking for the next step? Check out wearepowershift.ca.
You can get in touch with Emilie at admin.info