Hello everyone! Jenna here. Today’s post is inspired by a realization I made recently about the current state of our world, and how we can make a positive change for our future.
Science is great. Technological innovations have made our lives so much easier; modern medicine has been saving lives across the globe for decades. Science and technology have also been great for combating the environmental issues we are currently facing. There are countless claims on the news and internet stating that the “solutions” to our environmental problems have been found. Bacteria that eats plastic, companies that turn garbage into fuel, affordable solar panels—these innovations are all great, but at the end of the day, they are not going to make the massive global change that we need.
There is no way to produce enough of the plastic-eating bacteria to remove all the plastic in our oceans in the near future, if ever. There is just too much. Burning garbage to turn into fuel requires energy and emits waste, creating its own environmental problems. Solar panels are only accessible to our planet’s richest; even if they go down in price, the poorest people in the world will not have access to them. Many of these people live in areas with low energy access yet have plenty of sunlight, so there is so much lost potential. The simple fact is that no amount of materialistic problem-solving (ie. “solutions” that involve expensive machinery/tools) we have, we aren’t going to make the change we need. Instead, we need to problem solve by rewriting how society as a whole views the environment. We need to change the people and their habits, not the objects that people use.
While these innovations reduce our ecological footprint and the damage our habits inflict on the planet, we are overlooking the greatest solution to environmental problems. This solution is already available to everyone around the world and has been for a very long time. This solution is no secret, yet we gravitate towards “fixing” our problems instead of addressing the cause of these problems and motivating them to change.
The solution is clear, but we often discount it. Can you guess what this solution is?
A heavy-loaded statement, I know, but it’s the truth. Today’s children are tomorrow’s future. They are going to be our entrepreneurs, our engineers, our activists and our leaders. Their ideas and habits will shape the world. They are going to be the ones to make a difference and to continue the work that we are starting now. They will be the ones to stop burning fossil fuels for good because they are educated about their effects on the planet; they will be the ones to replace all single-use plastic with reusable products. While we have started taking these actions now, having our children grow up in an environment where this is the “norm” is the only way to change our future. Inspiring today’s youth, filling their heads with goals and aspirations of a brighter future that they can create will change the future.
A few weeks ago, I asked PickWaste to give a presentation at the summer camp I work at. Thinking about how our children can change the world, I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to inspire the kids. Last week Sam gave the presentation, followed by a cleanup around the gym. I have never seen the kids so motivated or enthusiastic.
The presentation was successful for a few reasons. As a leader in environmental activism, Sam is younger than most who have accomplished what he has thus far. While his youth makes him relatable to the campers, I don’t think that is the main reason that they were so engaged.
What’s special about PickWaste’s presentation style is that it inspires action instead of blaming people for the problems that we have. Instead of saying, “it’s our fault for littering, we are the problem,” the approach that PickWaste takes is, “we can make a change because the actions that each of us takes do matter.”
Being totally honest here, it’s hard to get the campers to listen to you even for a minute. We’ve had police officers, firefighters and scientists come in to give presentations, but none of these people were really able to capture their attention. That being said, the kids have never been as captivated and attentive as they were with Sam. He showed the kids how they can make a difference, how each and every one of them has the capacity to do something amazing. If you’ve ever looked a child in the eyes while telling them that they’re amazing, it’s a truly indescribable moment. On this day, there were 90 kids staring at Sam with awe as he showed them how they can be real changemakers in our world.
To create a change, we need to inspire each other to be the change. We cannot blame each other for our problems; pointing fingers make us not want to act. Saying climate change “is all our fault” makes us feel guilty, get defensive and ignore the problem because we don’t like this feeling of guilt. On the other hand, saying something like “each and every one of us has the power to change things” fills us with hope and empowers us to act. Yes, a large amount of climate change’s disastrous effects are a result of anthropogenic activities. We know this, and we do not enjoy the constant reminder. Instead, we want to be told that we can make a change in our ways. If we don’t believe that we can do it, we won’t do it. So instead of putting all of our energy into finding someone to blame for our problems, let’s start channelling our energy into creating our world’s future changemakers.
Think about how you feel before writing an exam. You do not want your friend or professor saying to you, “you failed last time, so you’ll probably fail this time.” You want them to say, “okay, you’ve struggled in the past, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do better the next time.” Going into the exam with this positive thought in mind will boost your self-confidence, while the negative thought will probably do the opposite. We need to use the same approach when talking to the youth that will someday change the world: yes, we have caused many of the problems that we face today. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t fix them.
After Sam’s presentation, the kids were so excited to get outside and pick up litter. They were running around, shouting about how they were saving the world. They understood for the first time how picking up one piece of litter does really make a difference. When we came back together after 25 minutes of collecting litter, it was amazing to see how much we collected with the help of 90 campers and 10 counsellors, on a property that already appeared immaculate. It wasn’t until we started cleaning up that we found little pieces of plastic and cigarette butts that had initially been overlooked. We collected seven massive bags of litter in such a short time, and the campers were able to see how the small action of picking up litter could make a big change.
The kids were so inspired by the event that the following day, several kids came up to me to show me the pieces of litter they had collected around the building as we went through our daily activities. Their enthusiasm inspired me to see the positive impact we were making on these kids. I bet that after the event, the campers went home and told their parents all about the presentation and cleanup. Maybe the campers went home and asked their parents if they can attend one of PickWaste’s weekly cleanups, or perhaps they inspired their parents to take their own action.
By showing the campers how much of a difference they can individually make, we are motivating them to act in the future. They now know how powerful they are as individuals; as a team, they are indestructible. This day may resonate with them for years to come. Before we know it, we may have a group of leaders creating environmental change, change that was inspired by PickWaste’s presentation at their camp.
It only takes a few seconds to change a child’s life forever. A comment you make to them, whether it is a positive or negative one, will resonate with them for years. I still remember a presentation in grade eighth that inspired me to be true to myself; I also remember a negative comment made about me in grade seven by my crush. Kids are like sponges, absorbing whatever you throw at them. Telling them how messed up our world is and how insignificant their actions are will stick with them through life, discouraging them from making a positive change. Showering them with encouragement, positivity and support will inspire them to take action. By speaking to so many children at schools, camps and around the community, PickWaste is changing the way our future generation will think. This fills me with hope our future will get a little bit better.
In one hundred years, we want to look back at the past generations and smile when we see the good that occurred during this time. We do not want to be saddened like we are now, and we do not want to be fearful of our future. We are already getting to that place, but we can change that. It is up to us to shape the way our upcoming generation thinks, and to show our kids how powerful each and every child is. If they believe that they can do great things, they will achieve greatness. All we must do is show them that they can be great if they work for it. It’s obvious that we need to change our thoughts and habits around current environmental issues. In order to do this, we need to raise a generation that is filled with hope and certainty that they can change the world for the better.