Nanaimo high school students Anya Mikes, left, Holly Turner and Anqi Xu are leading an effort to have city councillors establish a youth-led climate advisory group responsible for organizing cleanup events throughout the community by September. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Nanaimo students pushing for youth-led climate advisory group

Group would be responsible for organizing community cleanups, meetings and other events

A group of Nanaimo high school students are hoping to establish an environmental group that would bring adults and youths together on a regular basis.

Grade 11 students Anqi Xu, Holly Turner, Anya Mikes and a handful of other high schoolers have been working toward establishing a Youth Climate Action Network advisory group, which would meet twice a month and function in a similar manner to the city’s now-defunct youth advisory council.

According to Xu, Turner and Mikes, the Youth Climate Action Network advisory group would be student-led and connect youths from across the city in an effort to raise more awareness and provide opportunities for them to be more environmentally active within the community. The group would be responsible for organizing events such as garbage cleanups throughout the community.

“We want monthly events. No matter how old you are, whether you are in an eco-club or not, you can show up and be a part of the event,” said Xu, who attends Dover Bay Secondary School.

Late last month, the trio appeared before city councillors and called on them to support the establishment of the Youth Climate Action Network advisory group. They also asked councillors to designate a staff member to act as a part-time coordinator for the group.

“We are hoping the coordinator could be responsible for helping plan events and ensuring the group is better organized because many students have busy lives and it is hard for all of us to stay on the same page sometimes,” Xu told the News Bulletin, adding that “if we have someone who knows the ropes and can organize things, the group will be more sustainable in the long run.”

RELATED: Nanaimo youths strike again to call for climate action

Mikes, who attends John Barsby Secondary, said the advisory group would serve as a way for youths who have been involved in the ongoing climate strikes to get more involved by giving them opportunities to clean up trash or connect with other young people who are looking to make a difference.

“It is also a way to give hands-on activities to youth because I have friends who want to get involved but they don’t know how and this would give them an opportunity to do so,” she said.

“Even further from the cleanup, it would be sharing information about what other schools [are doing] and maybe adopting them into the other parts of the community,” added Turner, who attends Nanaimo District Secondary School.

Although Nanaimo councillors did not make any commitments to the student’s request last month, Mayor Leonard Krog told the News Bulletin they made a positive impression on council and that he would be open to meeting with them in the future.

The idea to create a youth climate network stems partly from a 2018 UN report on climate change, which suggests that humans only have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5 C before “further negative consequences” are felt throughout the entire world.

Xu, Turner and Mikes said they and many of their peers are seriously worried about the future and that they wanted to create something that follows on the momentum generated by the climate strikes.

“We thought the climate strikes were more about raising attention, but this is more action-oriented and if people are interested in the cause they can come out and help,” Xu said.

The students are hoping to have the advisory committee up and running by September. They have also called on the Regional District of Nanaimo to provide free bus passes to those under 18 and have successfully re-established a network of environmental clubs known as the Green Network after Nanaimo school district trustees recently agreed to commit $2,500 in funding toward their initiative.

“Youth are scared and they want to help, but many of them don’t necessarily know how,” Xu said. “By implementing this group and by getting a coordinator, there can be a structured and organized group that youth can show up to and know they are making a difference.” 
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