Top of Mind – Climate and Youth

By: Wendy Rinella and Mike Miller

These two topics have been at the forefront as The Foundation starts its 30th trip around the sun.  

On Monday, July 3rd, the world recorded its hottest temperature since the first time this data point was monitored 44 years ago. It was also the first time the daily average was greater than 17 C at 17.01 C. Then, on Tuesday, July 4, the world temperature was even higher at 17.18 C.

Locally, closer to home, during the week of July 3rd, temperatures soared into the 30s with humidex temperatures reaching into the 40s. Prior weeks weather included multiple days of severe thunder showers, hail and tornado warnings and forest-fire smoke advisories. Our Annual General Meeting at Oakville Galleries was moved inside due to the poor air quality and smoke advisories. Many residents heeded the warnings to not go outside during the smoke advisories, particularly if suffering from a respiratory condition or if immunocompromised. 

These warmer, wetter and wilder climate conditions are the hallmarks of climate change. How are these changes impacting our community now and in the future? Who does it impact the most and how will it change how we live, work and play? While we don’t usually provide a preview of the research that we are doing, we thought that it may be time to share our plans. 

This past April we gathered a number of advisors together to assist in the development of our next report on how climate change is impacting our community. 

  1. New Board member Lisa Kohler, Executive Lead Climate Change Response and Sustainability at Halton Region, is leading the Advisory Group, supported by: 
  2. Ward 1 Councillor and Urban Planner Jonathan McNeice
  3. Sheridan College’s Dean of Innovation John Helliker
  4. Mississauga of the Credit First Nation Elder Peter Schuler, and 
  5. Halton Environmental Network (HEN)’s Executive Director Marsha Smith and Community Climate Action Plan, Project Coordinator Sundus Hussain. HEN will be assisting us in undertaking the research. 

A number of Fundholders like the Larry & Gerry Wilson Family Fund and the Alma Fund are supporting this work.

While we are aware of the need to catalogue the physical impacts of climate change on our local environment, there are also impacts on our mental health and outlook for the future. In particular, we are beginning to see the emergence of “climate anxiety” experiences by youth.

In addition to some young, local eco-warriors (think Greta Thunberg) who become part of HEN’s Generation Green, there is another reaction which is to ignore the situation or take a fatalistic view: “Why bother as the world is going to end within the next 50 years?” We will be exploring the issues related to Oakville’s climate as our next research topic, planned for release on Earth Day, April 22, 2024. (fingers crossed emoji) 

The weight of fixing the climate crisis or a lack of hope are both huge burdens that many of our youth are shouldering as they consider their futures. What is it like to grow up under this climate cloud? Particularly at this time of higher inflation, diminishing disposable income, flat economic growth and limited housing options— does our community provide the necessities to sustain future growth and opportunity for younger community members?

Do our youth have the tools and resources that they need to thrive? Do they have the skills for the new jobs required for the challenges that their generation will face?

This year, the Community Education Awards Hub saw a tremendous jump of almost 40% in registrants, growing from 876 in 2022 to 1206 in 2023. Clearly, youth want to find additional resources for post-secondary education for their future success. We know that the majority of Hub awards benefit the academically gifted or the more financially disadvantaged. How about the missing middle? How are they faring— do they have the resources they need as well?

As it is often said: youth are our future.

So how are we as a community setting them up for success in a sustainable future? The recent outreach to our Fundholders to support 10 additional DeMaio Award recipients yielded a total of 17 award recipients. We know that we cannot achieve these goals without the support of this community.

We don’t have answers to all of these questions but we are thinking about community-based solutions. We hope that many of you will consider becoming part of the Awards Hub or support the research on local climate change impacts and solutions for our community and charities. 

Let’s show our kids that we are here for them and their futures!