Engaging The Voice Of Youth

By Soli Agha, Laila Zafar and Regina Flores, TG Magazine Youth Journalists

The youth representatives were the only journalists at the conference who had the opportunity to meet privately with the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Sergio Marchi. We took this opportunity to ask him about direct and practical ways youth can get involved in environmental concerns. Minister Marchi began by emphasizing the unique role of youth by saying, "it is the young that keep our feet to the environmental fire." He was optimistic about youth participation in general, and noted the need to harness youth energy towards the environmental arena.

He offered suggestions for potential youth involvement. For example, at the community level more youth are needed to inspire others to get involved. Our energy is crucial to maintain momentum in an often seemingly stagnant movement.

Minister Marchi felt that the academic environment is a key tool for reaching young people and stimulating them intellectually. Not only are students becoming informed through studies, but the campus setting allows us to question and debate, raise our awareness and demand change.

Politically, he felt there is much more room for youth involvement. Minister Marchi believes today's society youth are not as likely to participate in government activities, as compared to the past when government was seen as a place of ideas and actions. He stressed that one effective way of creating change is by lobbying all officials, including our senators. We should contact government officials he said, "...get a few kids on their cases, you'll see how they jump."

Furthermore, he encouraged us to become involved at the corporate level. He challenged youth to, "push Corporate Canada to clean up some of its dirty acts wherever they exist." Minister Marchi encouraged us to gain the technological skills necessary for positions in business where we can further influence environmental change.

The point made by Mr. Marchi is clear: the structure for our involvement exists, but it remains up to us to take advantage of the possibilities. He said because "the dynamism of young people" is immeasurable, as a starting point youth can contact organizations such as the Canadian Environmental Network Youth Caucus, a direct way of focussing our desire to improve the future. Our ability to incite change depends on, "how far they [we] want to move the world, because the world is there for the moving whether they [we] are on a campus or whether they [we] are in a backyard."