By MARCIA JANSEN
I-SEA, Salt Spring Institute for Sustainability Education & Action, is calling for students in the Gulf Islands to apply for their newly instated Youth Climate Activism Award (YCAA). Folk musician Luke Wallace is the official ambassador of the award that aims to shine a light on young people who are addressing the climate crisis.
Greta Thunberg’s speech on the steps at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2019 and the enthusiasm of the young people in the crowd planted the seed for the Youth Climate Activism Award.
“It was so powerful,” says Peter Allan, executive director of I-SEA, who witnessed the speech. “There were so many kids to support Greta and her message that the idea came up to acknowledge young people who are doing something meaningful for the future of our planet. So far there was little public, formal recognition that acknowledges the power teenagers can rally to impact real change and speak truth to our leaders.”
I-SEA could not have found a better ambassador for the YCA Award in Luke Wallace. The folk musician from Salt Spring Island is young and uses his music for change. You can not only find him at folk festivals all over the West Coast, but also at schools or leading rally-sing-a-longs at Canada’s biggest youth climate marches.
“I was very excited when I was asked to be involved,” says Wallace. “I’ve been raising awareness about climate change with my music and films for over a decade; combining night-time gigs with shows at schools, to engage young people in protecting our planet.”
Wallace sees the award as a beautiful opportunity to reward the work that young people are doing in their communities.
“With this award, we can amplify and highlight their voices. It is up to young people to take action to transform the world; the food-, energy- and transport systems. Let’s use them as our guides and celebrate their efforts, and hopefully older generations are motivated by the actions of young folks.”
Nature is for Wallace the biggest inspiration in his art. His latest album ‘What on Earth’ highlights environmental issues facing coastal B.C., like the old-growth logging at Fairy Creek.
“I am inspired almost daily by Mother Nature and the beautiful harmony of the ecosystems. It makes me feel that I am part of something bigger. We need to protect that.”
Students under the age of 20 can submit a five-minute video or short story of 500 words to share how they are making a difference for our planet. The honour comes with a cash reward of $300 for elementary students and up to $1,500 for high school students.
“We started this year in the 12 Vancouver Island school districts but it is our dream to roll out the Youth Climate Activism Award provincially, and then nationally as an unstoppable wave. We want to award young activists, share their stories and send out a hopeful message.”
The deadline for application is May 15. Interested students are encouraged to ask their teacher more about the award.