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10-year-old demands action on climate change

January 15, 2013 - 1:05 PM

Wise words on climate change from a 10-year-old Vernon student appears to have impacted councillors at Monday's city council meeting.

Neave Allen, a Grade 5 student from Beairsto School, spoke to Vernon councillors about the effects of climate change, urging them to do more locally to curb its destructive impacts.

"I don't understand everything about it, but I know it's caused by what people do," she said.

Allen's presentation drew from a powerful mix of the personal and the universal. All her life, Allen has wanted to see polar bears, but fears she might never get that chance. She noted that in 2004, scientists said at the current melting rate, polar bears would soon become extinct. 

"If I could change place with anyone in the world it would be with you because you are the ones who can do what is necessary to make our future better," Allen said in a letter.

She said using solar panels and using building roofs to grow plants are just two things Vernon could use now against climate change.

"You could make parking less available and put in more bike lanes... reducing emissions will reduce the pollution I breathe every day," she said. "I know there are things you can do and I don't understand why they are not done."

Coun. Juliette Cunningham complimented Allen and gave a nod to her parents. She also reminded her that Vernon has stepped in the right direction with an anti-idling bylaw.

Coun. Patrick Nicol encouraged Allen to speak to the North Okanagan Regional District as well.

"Hearing from articulate young people is worth a thousand meetings," he said.

"I recommend you speak in Victoria and Ottawa too," Mayor Rob Sawatzky added.

Sawatzky says Allen's presentation raised important issues, but reveals the city is powerless in some areas.

"By and large, we are doing what we can do and are clearly hamstrung by responsibilities of senior government, especially federal government who controls most of the important policies around those things and have said they don't pay any attention to the science," Sawatzky told InfoTel News in an interview after the meeting.

He acknowledged the carbon tax implemented by Gordon Campbell, adding those types of initiatives are what make the biggest difference, not solar panels and green roofs. 

"The big things are federal and provincial," he said.

Sawatzky also said it's unfortunate that the economic downturn diverted people's priorities from environmental activism.

"A good environmental policy is an important part of a sustainable economy," he said, noting Vernon could set a national example as long as it had the support of the public.

As a young person, Allen said she will be part of the generation that witnesses the worst of climate change.

"We are all on thin ice, just like the polar bears," Allen said.

—Charlotte Helston

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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