By Sarah Wray
Reprinted with permission from Trail & Landscape 2014; 48(1)
In September 2013, I was sponsored by the OFNC to attend the 4th annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit focusing on biodiversity and green solutions. It was held over a weekend at the Geneva Park YMCA in Orillia. 104 youth participated in this event, the biggest turn out yet! On arrival on Friday evening we were divided into our color teams to get ready for the great team challenge the following day. After dinner and getting to know our teammates we headed off to bed looking forward to a fun filled day on Saturday.
On Saturday I had 3 workshops; “Snapshot Biodiversity”, “Foraging Foods from Forests and Slimes”, and “Scales and Citizen Science”. In Snapshot Biodiversity I learnt how to take pictures in different settings and really think about what it is you are trying to capture and portray. My favorite workshop on Saturday would be Slimes, Scales and Citizen Science since it was very hands on with going and looking for reptiles and amphibians in the back fields of Geneva Park. I learnt a lot about myths and issues that concern specific species and cause humans to impact their population numbers.
In the evening there were a number of university presentations introducing us to different programs and opportunities for the future. We also watched the movie Sharkwater which shows the problem of shark finning and how the disappearance of sharks would cause a huge reduction in the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere. During the team challenge the green team (which I was in) won the cheer competition for creating a green protest.
On Sunday I had 2 more workshops; “Medicinal Plants of Ontario” and “Birds of Prey”. Birds of Prey was my ultimate favorite workshop since they had real birds and I learnt a lot about their lifestyles.
Sunday was also the day ROB STEWART, the renowned filmmaker and conservationist came to give us an insight on his journey and future projects. It was really interesting to hear about his struggles and how many times his movie Sharkwater got rejected but then managed to overcome these set-backs. One really interesting fact I learnt was that to keep our earth from getting hotter we would need to leave 80% of all known oil reserves in the ground and convert to more renewable energy.
This Youth Summit has changed me since I’m a lot more aware of some of the threats and concerns on many species not just well known but more low key species in Canada and how if change isn’t made now there will not be green future. I hope to continue pursuing my interest in the environment and possibly look towards a career path in environmental studies. My thanks to the OFNC for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and letting me pursue my interest in a greener world.
Editor’s note: Sarah is currently a Grade 10 student at Nepean High School, very active in competitive soccer and numerous school activities, and an enthusiastic volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.