Climate courses to empower locals

Agencies collaborate to make a difference

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A new education initiative on Pender Island will combine traditional First Nations knowledge with current climate science to give people the tools they need to combat the climate crisis within the Gulf Islands. 

The courses were initiated by a group made up of WSÁNEC First Nation and Southern Gulf Islands representatives called the TETÁCES Climate Action Project. The five-day courses are meant to be more than just a series of workshops, and are intensive experiences devoted to certain aspects of mitigating the climate crisis. 

Project coordinator Paul Petrie described the courses as “three concentric circles” growing from island-based issues, those affecting the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea in general. Twenty-four spots are open in the courses, eight of which will be set aside and subsidized for First Nations participants.

The first course covers Indigenous perspectives on eco-cultural revitalization and focuses on things like eco-cultural restoration, localized climate science and how to respond to the crisis through an Indigenous culture lens. That course will be held in the Bedwell Harbour area on Pender Island. 

Petrie said the harbour “is a particularly important area both ecologically and culturally for the First Nations. It has an over 5,000-year history and was a focal point of settlement.”

Part of that first course will also be a restoration project to remove invasive species from the area. 

The second course is focused on youth engagement, and will give islanders aged 15 to 30 the tools needed to inform climate action. The emphasis will be on things like conservation, current actions and preparation, as well as restoration. An additional eight seats will be set aside for youth living in the Southern Gulf Islands. A bursary from the Anglican Parish of Pender and Saturna islands will help support the remaining eight participants in this course. 

“We’re committed to offering that youth leadership course at the lowest cost possible to make it accessible,” Petrie said.

Third is a course taking an academic look at climate change in the Salish Sea archipelago. Participants will discuss cross-border decision making, as well as strategies that can help support community resilience, coordination between islands and reconciliation with First Nations peoples. 

Courses were developed by representatives from the WSÁNEC First Nation, the Southern Gulf Islands, the Salish Sea Institute from Western Washington University and the Living Land Project based in Victoria. 

“The First Nations and Coast Salish people more generally have a worldview that is now recognized as an important component of any sustainable climate-action program,” Petrie said. “This was recognized at the Paris climate change conference a few years back and it’s integral to the federal government’s climate action program. We think it’s important that there’s a focal point on that.”

See https://www.sgicommunityresources.ca/climate-action-project/ for more information. 

For more on this story, see the Dec. 25, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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