With the third blog post in this series, we continue the story of the climate change white paper. Students from Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton are among hundreds of youth worldwide working on a white paper to be presented at the upcoming CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton. Just after they concluded a two-hour virtual meeting with peers from around the world, Transforming Edmonton spoke with Badr El-Bakkali El-Kasmi, a Grade 12 student at Queen Elizabeth, and Terry Godwaldt, director of the Centre for Global Education, which is leading this initiative.
Transforming Edmonton: Badr, what was the highlight of the two hours that you just spent with your peers around the world?
Badr El-Bakkali El-Kasmi: The whole conference is the highlight – being able to attend and seeing all the different perspectives on climate change. That’s very unique, and it’s something that we have to work towards together, as a global nation. I feel like that’s pretty amazing.
TE: Terry, what stood out for you? What was a highlight you may have heard today, or the way a student phrased something?
Terry Godwaldt: I would say there were two highlights. One was hearing the kids talk about what their schools were doing to make a difference. The fact that it’s not just the kids in Edmonton, but also the kids in Ghana, in Nairobi, in Jakarta, all across the planet, who really see education as an opportunity to not just learn about, but to shape the world that they are participating in. The other highlight was when I saw one of the kids tweet directly to their peers. Learning isn’t just something that we facilitate – it is something the students take a sense of ownership in, and say “You know what? Forget the teachers, forget the classroom. I want to work with my friends, who are on the other side of the planet, to make a difference.”
TE: Badr, right now you’re studying for your exams, and your marks are important – this project is not part of what you get your grades in. Why do you get involved in something like this when maybe you could be sleeping in instead?
Badr: For us, climate change is our future. This is going to be the biggest topic that is going to be affecting us when we grow up. I believe that we really need to put effort in solving this situation right now, because it is something we’re going to have to live with when we’re older.
TE: There’s lots of talk not only about countries, but also about cities in this project. Why are cities so important for this mission?
Badr: A country is a very broad concept. To solve a situation such as climate change, we need to go in directly. We need to change our habits and our lifestyles. I feel like cities are able to do that head-on.
“Climate change is our future. This is going to be the biggest topic that is going to be affecting us when we grow up. “
TE: If you were driving past Queen Elizabeth this morning, you’d have no idea that, behind these walls, this conversation was happening. And it happened because of technology. How important is technology as you get ready for this conference?
Badr: Technology is the main source that we have to communicate with the other students, so it’s very important. It helps us develop our ideas and our thoughts on how youth want to solve climate change, and what we want to do about it.
Terry:Today, the students were connecting live, face-to-face with 12 countries all around the world – with kids in Beijing, in Indonesia, in India, in Ghana, hearing the stories of their peers on what climate change looks like for them, and how they can work together to make a difference. We believe passionately that the classroom doesn’t have to be something that’s about a textbook.
“If we’re going to learn about the world, then we should learn with the world.”
TE: You seem absolutely inspired by these young people. What is it about them that inspires you so much?
Terry: When we give them an opportunity to delve deeply into the complexities of global issues, and we give them the time and the resources to bring their voices together in a meaningful way, they can blow us out of the water. They should be at the table around these critical decisions that the world needs to make. Something that I have also learned is that the classroom isn’t something that happens from the top down, but that it is a bunch of peers who are gathering together to learn.
TE: What is the white paper that the students are writing together going to accomplish?
Terry: We believe this white paper has the potential to change the planet. The students are going to put this research that they have done at the feet of the leading scientists and policy makers from across the planet and say, this is what we want you to do. That’s what that paper is all about.
“We believe this white paper has the potential to change the planet.”
TE: There’s going to be a lot of hot-shot scientists, distinguished researchers, and academics at this conference. What’s your message to those smart people?
Badr: Our message is that we want a future which we can live in comfortably. We don’t want to be facing a reality in which we are struggling due to our climate. We want to inspire and motivate them to push further to hopefully save our generation.
TE: Cool. Thank you very much for your thoughts, we really appreciate talking to you.
Terry: Great, thanks!
Badr: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
You can see the students do presentations about climate change at the Change for Climate: Festival of Youth Voices event at NAIT on February 27. edmonton.ca/ClimateCommunitySeries
Join the climate change talks on the EPCOR Stage in the Shaw Conference Centre, March 5-7, 2018, and see the students on the stage on Monday, March 5. edmonton.ca/EPCORstage
The Festival of Youth Voices and EPCOR Stage are part of the Change for Climate Community Series. All events are free and open to the public.
Learn more about what citizens can do to reduce their effect on the environment by visiting ChangeforClimate.ca