The Youth Environmental Action group met with local politicians to discuss their ideas for how to reduce the Valley’s environmental impact. Photo courtesy Comox Valley Schools

Youth Environmental Action presents climate asks to local leaders

The student-led group met with representatives from each municipality, the CVRD and the school board

A local group of students is ramping up their efforts to make the Comox Valley a more environmentally conscious place to live.

Students from Mark R. Isfeld Secondary, G.P. Vanier, Cumberland Secondary, Partners in Education and North Island College, who make up the Youth Environmental Action group, spent their lunch break on Monday with local politicians discussing actions each municipality can take to reduce their environmental footprint.

RELATED: VIDEO: Isfeld students join global student strike

Nalan Goosen, one of the founding members, said the group put three asks on the table and added the response from mayors, councillors and CVRD directors was quite positive.

The first ask was having recycling pickup each week while garbage pick up be reduced every second week, similar to communities like West Vancouver. They are also hoping to see an organics program implemented in Courtenay.

Comox and Cumberland have been participating in Comox Strathcona Waste Management’s Organics Compost pilot program, and Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells expressed enthusiasm for seeing organic pickups throughout the Valley.

Secondly, the group wanted to see an environmental sustainability committee be created in the Valley, made up of local politicians, adult allies and youth.

Lastly, the group asked that a climate state of emergency be declared in the Valley.

Mackai Sharp, who presented the third ask, explained that making the declaration would put more pressure on local governments to make the necessary changes quickly.

“We also think that the symbolism that comes with putting a municipality into a state of emergency is valuable because it can make other municipalities across the Island and all of Canada … possibly also take these steps,” he said.

Gears are already turning to bring this issue to the forefront at a provincial level. At the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities annual meeting on the weekend, a resolution was brought forward by the Sunshine Coast Regional District, asking the province to declare a province-wide climate emergency.

Monday’s Youth Environmental Action meeting also allowed time for a question and answer period where students and elected representatives discussed various topics like subsidizing electric vehicles and adding climate change to school curriculums.

Following in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, Youth Environmental Action formed last month to participate in the March 15 school strike for the environment. Now they have around 25 members.

Sharp used to live in Oahu, Hawaii and witnessed the impacts humans were having on turtle populations. He says these peaceful protests have given students a voice and a way to make a difference.

“I feel like we now have a platform that is globally recognized to make change and I feel like at this time, there’s an opportunity and we should all seize it,” he said.

Goosen says they are looking forward to more of these meetings in the coming months.

“We have to save our planet before we can even consider the future.”

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