PowerShift puts environmental...
PowerShift puts environmental change in youth’s hands
HUNTSVILLE – Huntsville resident Peggy Peterson says PowerShift 2012 renewed her faith in humanity.
Peterson was one of 1,300 people who attended the four-day climate and environmental justice summit for youth in Ottawa from Oct. 26 to 29. She said the passion and dedication of the youth she met was inspiring.
“Youth are empowered,” she said. “I feel the future is way brighter than before I went to PowerShift.”
The summit, organized by and for youth, brought young people from across the country together to learn about issues and develop strategies for positive environmental change.
Peterson attended the conference as a panelist.
She said Rev. Derek S. Shelly of Trinity United Church recommended her and another community member to summit organizers as potential speakers. Both were invited to the summit.
Peterson is a professional organic gardener and gardening educator in Muskoka. She is also a community and environmental advocate who practices Earth medicine and champions sustainability.
Organizers placed Peterson on a panel of three speakers who discussed faith-based perspectives on climate change. Fellow panelists included United Nations-recognized author Peter Denton and Gurpreet Singh Dipak.
She said the principle theme of the panel discussion was that working together with a positive message and loving intention can create change.
And throughout the summit she spoke with youth from Montréal, Nova Scotia, the prairies, northern Canada and other communities across the country that were doing just that.
Peterson met an aboriginal Arctic advocate fighting for the environmental protection of the north, a young man from the east coast passionately pursuing labelling of genetically modified foods through his member of parliament, and a group opposing changes to Ontario crude oil pipeline Line 9 that could put the St. Lawrence waterway at risk of bitumen contamination.
One of the topics of discussion that seemed to move Peterson the most was the environmental impact of the Alberta tar sands and its pipelines.
“PowerShift was about social justice, planet justice, sustainable living from the ground up, and making the government understand the importance of making these changes,” said Peters. “We can’t have our economy based on the fire sale of our resources. We can’t destroy our country by running all this stuff that’s really nasty across our beautiful properties.”
She said Muskoka residents should think about what their reaction would be if someone wanted to run a crude oil pipeline through Algonquin Park.
“It’s going through someone’s backyard,” she said. “And we should treat it like it is in our own backyard.”
The tar sands, she said, are about the size of Britain and expansion zones the size of whales is being proposed.
Peterson said she spoke to people at the summit who live in the proposed expansion zones. She also spoke to others who have gone on annual walks in environment around the oil sands and become ill because of it.
Youth at the conference are now asking the government to end $1.4 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel corporations.
Peterson said it is important for youth to be involved in discussions about climate change and environmental protection because the future is theirs.
“There are a lot of people between ages 30 and 50 that don’t want anything to change. They don’t want their lives to change, they don’t want their lifestyles to change,” she said.
She encouraged youth to start discussions within their families on topics of environmental protection and start a conversation with the adults closest to them.
Everyone has to be part of the solution.
Those who live in Muskoka are surrounded by beautiful scenery and fresh
water, which puts them in a position of environmental privilege, said Peterson.
“We’re not going to be hurt. We don’t have oil,” she said. “But we still have to be part of the collective discussion.”
Peterson said Huntsville is doing great
things environmentally already, such as community gardens.
“People really care around here,” she said.
But she added more needs to be done and hopefully youth can lead the charge.