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Working for change

Meagan (left) discusses Canadian climate change policies with MP Jim Prentice (third from right) and Canadian negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2008.

"“People who say the youth are the leaders of tomorrow are wrong. The youth are the leaders of today.” Meagan McKeen"

By

Meagan McKeen

Environment, Natural heritage

Published Date: 28 May 2009

Photo: Meagan (left) discusses Canadian climate change policies with MP Jim Prentice (third from right) and Canadian negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2008.

Protecting the environment and natural heritage has become an important part of my life over the past few years. While busy as a Grade 12 student at Oakville’s Abbey Park High School, I have become actively involved in environmental initiatives – internationally, nationally and in my own community.

On a global scale, I participated in a program called the International Climate Champions (ICC) for which I travelled to London, England to work with 36 other students from the G8+5 countries. We created a statement representing the international youth voice on climate change, while challenging world leaders to take ambitious steps toward cutting carbon emissions. In May, we presented this statement for the G8 Environment Ministers Climate Summit in Kobe, Japan.

This year, my international work extended to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poland. At this conference, young Canadians worked with our Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, to encourage him to agree to acceptable emission reduction targets.

As a result of the programs in London and Japan, I helped to launch a Canadian program called ICCommit. More than 15,000 students across the country were involved in making and keeping their own personal environmental commitments.

After experiencing environmental activism on many levels, I have come to realize that the most important work I do is within my own community. Through Oakville Green, I help to organize a group of students to plant 200 trees and shrubs in Oakville each fall and spring. I also worked with Oakville Green on a project to enact a bylaw that bans the use of cosmetic pesticides. I spoke as the youngest delegate at the town council debate. As a result of my efforts and those of my colleagues, the bylaw was enacted months later.

In order to share my experiences, I spoke as the keynote speaker at the Hamilton Community Foundation’s youth environment conference: Living the Environment. My speech focused on youth empowerment and the ability of young people to make changes in the world. I have also given presentations on protecting the environment to both high school and elementary students across the school board. By reaching out to students, who are the next generation of world leaders, I help to bring sustainability to my community.