RMOW Policy and Program Development
There’s a slogan kicking around in my grey matter that just managed to bust a small hole right into my frontal lobe. Originally created by an American college recruiting program aimed at getting more Afro-Americans into college, the saying goes “A mind is terrible thing to waste.”
Last month, standing in front of the Canadian Youth Eco Parliament, I thought about this slogan as I stared across a fertile field of youthful dreams, planting the seeds of sustainability in a row of 11 minds I’d dubbed collectively “The Future.” The students were selected as the winners of this year's Canadian Youth Eco Parliament program and were selected based on the quality of projects implemented at their schools. These range from zero waste to sustainable clothing to setting up a naturalized garden and composting program. They came from large cities, like Toronto and Calgary, and from small, rural places in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. They came to learn, and to teach. For example, I learned from a Davidson, Saskatchewan student it takes 10 years for a cotton T-shirt to decompose in a landfill.
From six to 60, and everywhere in between, folks are learning more about sustainability on a daily basis and this knowledge, or the minds which foster it, are not wasted. Around the world, people are learning and initiating positive, proactive change. Here in Whistler, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) has organized the highly successful AWARE Nature Kids program. From 10-11:30 a.m. on the last Saturday of every month, kids from 6-12 (adults welcome with a kid) can get together at the Meadow Park Sports Centre for experiential and educational events that focus on a different environmental sustainability related topic each month.
“The whole program is about being fun, educational and interactive,” says Cara Richard, AWARE Environmental Education Coordinator, about AWARE Nature Kids, a program inspired by an action recommended to AWARE by the Whistler2020 Learning Task Force. “To date we’ve had a great session learning about raptors and the Green Lake ecosystem, as well as our second session which was all about bear conflict and management.”
According to Richard, who is a new member of the Whistler2020 Learning Task Force, the fifth AWARE Nature Kids session will be Nov. 24. Attendance at the first two AWARE Nature Kids sessions was beyond expectations, with 47 people at the first and 53 at the second.
On the last Saturday of October, I had the honour of participating in the AWARE Nature Kids program and presented a picture of how Climate Change is impacting the globe’s quality and quantity of snow and ice. By using a giant photo of the Earth from space, we were able to discover that actions we do in Whistler affect people on the other side of the planet. As well, no puzzle is complete without all the pieces. So, even though we may not be seeing substantive losses on the Pemberton Ice Cap, massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica hold about 99 per cent of the world’s freshwater ice and they are seeing measured shrinkage. Should all that ice melt, the ocean level would rise by 64 metres and a lot of coastal lands would disappear under water.
So, even though glaciers may not appear to be shrinking as fast as those elsewhere, we can’t turn a blind eye to the rest of the puzzle just because our piece looks alright on its own. It’s the system, not the symptoms we need to learn about.
Everyday we learn, and together this shared knowledge is power. The power to share, to work together and move forward on our journey to success and sustainability. Share some of your thoughts on learning about sustainable actions. In 200 words or less, tell a story about your sustainable learning or action. Send it to the e-mail address below. We will post some on Whistler2020.ca for the world to see and learn from Whistler. The best story will receive a free eLearning course on sustainability from The Natural Step, a $60 value.