Sam Harrison can't even vote yet, but he's already a force to be reckoned with.
The 17 year old is the Director of Kids for Climate Action, a group working to get high school students more involved in environmental issues. The group has ten organizers in high schools across the Lower Mainland and is working on issues from coal exports from Vancouver's harbour to a campaign to make climate action the key issue on candidates' platforms.
Harrison has been integral in organizing a major Vancouver rally this Saturday for Defend Our Climate Defend Our Communities. "I think it is important, now more than ever, for people to speak up and let our government know that we don't want new tar sands pipelines in our country," said Harrison, "They're not in our national interest, and we need Canadians to come together and say that."
The Grade 12 student at Prince of Wales Secondary was born and raised in Vancouver and says he was brought up with the values that people should receive equal opportunity and that we should treat others how we want to be treated.
"Climate change is really an issue of justice. It's unfair to those in the developing world. It's unfair to those who were born in certain regions. The majority of the effects will be felt by those who didn't cause the problem, and that is unfair."
Part of Harrison's commitment to fighting pipelines, coal exports and runaway climate change came from spending time in B.C.'s wild spaces. Each year, his family went on a backpacking trip. His trip to Lake Garibaldi when he was eight crystallized things for him. "That was one of the first times I can really remember the beauty and power of the mountains and the coastal rainforest. Since then, I've seen forests just like that destroyed by mountain pine beetle, driven by a warmer climate".
For Harrison, making the connections between B.C. forests and climate change was one of the first times that the urgency of climate change really hit him. "It's not a thing of the future anymore, it's having an impact on B.C. communities now," he says.
Harrison hopes the Vancouver event will be the largest rally in Canadian history in opposition to pipelines. "I look forward to seeing people all across the country coming together for a common cause. Our opposition has vast amounts of money, and to win we need to have big numbers of people. From coast to coast to coast, I look forward to seeing Canadians coming together and telling our government to stand up for future generations and the environment, economy, and planet they will inherit."
What's next for Harrison? He wants to put his interest in climate change to work in his future career by studying clean energy and engineering at the University of Toronto or at UBC next year. "[Developing countries] need energy systems which are clean, affordable, and work in their communities. I want to find a way to contribute to that."
But for now, it's back to school on Monday for Harrison.
This article was originally published by VancouverObserver.com.
Photo by Zack Embree.
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