Passion for the Planet

Passion and excitement practically explode over the phone as I speak with Veronica Huggard.

Huggard is one of five young people chosen to represent Yukon at the Northern Forum’s Youth Eco Forum in Anchorage, Alaska from May 1-8.

“There is so much we can learn from each other and our different approaches to dealing with climate change in the boreal forest, and I’m excited to bring that learning back home to share with Yukoners,” she says.

“I’m most looking forward to sharing authentic discussions with my peers from around the world about what ecology is really about.”

The Northern Forum is an international association formed in 1991 to address common issues facing northern regional governments. Currently chaired by Yukon’s premier, Dennis Fentie, the Northern Forum includes regional governments from Canada, China, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States.

This year’s Youth Eco Forum was organized in partnership with the International Year of Youth and the International Year of Forests. As such the young participants from around the world focused their attention on the boreal forest and the impacts of climate change on this system.

Huggard and I spoke just before the group left Whitehorse. Each region’s team of delegates was asked to prepare a 20-minute presentation during the forum about the materials and natural wealth of their homes – and how those are managed.

The Yukon Team, she says, wanted to find a way to employ out-of-the-box thinking in their presentation.

“We chose to form our presentation around the four elements – water, air, earth and fire,” she explained.

“We’ve worked very hard to link the impacts of climate change in Yukon to the issue of forestry in ways that will be most meaningful to the youth we will be meeting from around the world.”

The Eco Forum’s young participants’ time was spent learning in different capacities. They took field trips in the Chugach National Forest and Prince William Sound and joined in a series of “classrooms for climate” workshops taught by professors from the University of Alaska – Anchorage.

They made hands-on decisions in an environmental planning game, and in drafting a declaration that they presented jointly on the final day of the forum.

Morris Lamrock, the youth programs coordinator for the department of Environment, was chaperone to the Yukon team. He highlighted the strength and diversity of the young people he travelled with to Anchorage.

“We had 14 young people apply who were all stellar candidates. The selection process was very difficult,” Lamrock told me.

“We have youth with very strong backgrounds in environmental stewardship – some of whom have worked in the field with groups like the Yukon Youth Conservation Corp – and others who come from a background of campaigning for social responsibility who will bring a much needed element to the group’s overall understanding of sustainability.”

Lamrock added that we need to support young people to participate in forums such as this one as much as possible.

“Our old ways of thinking, or – put another way – our ‘in-the-box’ ways of thinking have got us into the challenges we face as a society today,” he stressed.

“In order to solve those challenges we need to step out-of-the-box and out of our comfort zones. I believe youth with their abilities to creatively think are vital for this process.”

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].

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