Youth Climate Action Conference Grey Bruce in 2022.  Photo from Hilary Coburn Youth Climate Action Conference Grey Bruce in 2022. Photo from Hilary Coburn

Youth Climate Action Conference to be held in Grey Bruce

Grey Bruce’s second “Youth Climate Action Conference” will bring about 80 local students together to become Climate heroes on Tuesday.

Students in grades 6 to 8 will gather at the Sydenham Campus in Owen Sound for the second annual event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Event organizer and educator Hilary Coburn said over 30 climate advocate volunteers from all ages and parts of the community will get youth involved in community climate action. She added students will be inspired by local climate heroes’ presentations in the morning. Students will hear from Christopher Akiwenzie, Dylan White, Owen Menominee & Ethan Young, Chippewas of Nawash environmental leaders of Bagida’waad Alliance on “Biodiversity and Climate.” Bruce Davidson of CareerWORKS will discuss”Circular Economy: Garbage and Climate.” Information on “Multi Solving and Climate” will be presented by Megan Myles from the Grey County Climate office, Bluewater School Board educator Hil Coburn and Maddie Marmor from The Sustainability Project.

Coburn said there will also be panel discussions with local youth, featuring one successful YCAC local climate project from last year's conference.

"A Group from Kepple Sarawak attended last year, and they are now in grade six, and they are still continuing projects," Coburn pointed out. "So there are a couple of examples. They've gotten a composting program going after school that didn't exist before. They've also been working with them the Georgian Bluffs city council to create a safe entrance for more walking biking to school with the sidewalks."

Students will then share lunch together and attend a midday climate fair with local organizations and businesses. And the afternoon will feature workshops for the students.

"And in the afternoon, the kids are going to split up into about 11 different groups. And they have a couple of facilitators for groups that are going to lead them through a climate action workshop," explained Coburn. "So the idea is that each kiddo had between grade six and eight that attends will leave with either a group or individual climate action plan that they'll bring back to their community."

"The idea is in the workshop, We'll ask them what are you passionate about? What environmental problems do you see around your community and how can you create a solution to that problem with your passion?" continued Coburn. "So we might see kids love to play soccer, and they really hate plastic water bottles that their parents are buying. And they decide to hold a soccer tournament where if you come to the tournament, you have to sign a pledge to say I will no longer buy bottled water."

Students will receive mentorship and ongoing support to help bring their Community Climate Action Projects to fruition

"And I think it's part of the narrative of hope because we have to be hopeful. There's so much talk about climate less than action or climate despair and we don't want our kids to feel that weight on their shoulders," stressed Coburn. "They need adults in their communities that are doing the hard work to support and help them learn how they can be the climate heroes as they grow."

Special guests include Saugeen First Nation Knowledge Keeper James Kewaquom, Grey Warden Brian Milne, Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Scott Greig, Bluewater District School Board Superintendents, Trustees and Owen Sound & Georgian Bluffs City Councillors.

"Our youth also possess a magical power to have local politicians, businesses and leaders listen to their questions and creative problem solving ideas," concluded Coburn. "These youth need teachings, support, and teamwork from their communities' adults; we can not let the climate crisis fall on their shoulders alone. We need them, and they need us, and YCAC is a beautiful opportunity to share, inspire and create real, local change! Our planning team’s cup is filled with hope and positive energy....we truly look forward to seeing what Community Climate Action Projects our local student leaders will create and challenge our region with.”

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