In the summer of 2015, eight representatives from the three territories gathered together in Yellowknife for the Young Leader’s Summit on Northern Climate Change. This group of leaders was welcomed by staff from Ecology North and embarked on a travelling road trip from Yellowknife to Enterprise and back again. The team stopped in Fort Providence, Behchoko, Kakisa, Enterprise, the K’atlodeeche First Nation and Hay River. Along the way they met with local experts to learn about a variety of climate change related topics such as permafrost, fishing, water quality, northern agriculture, and forest fire research. The summit also incorporated opportunities to engage with local elders, scientists, and government officials in a variety of ways. Dialogue and networking between and among participants and presenters was facilitated and occurred naturally during and even after the summit.
The young leaders travelled as a family unit, camping along the way and working together to cook and clean up meals. They discovered their own strengths as they explored the northern landscape together embarking on a fossil hunt, forest fire research and talks with local elders. They incorporated technology and social media into this experience by taking pictures along the way, and blogging their experience online through Facebook and Twitter. At the conclusion of the summit participants were tasked with creating a small presentation that included a map of pictures and descriptions of the places they had travelled to and what they learned from each activity. Some even conducted interviews of the participants and elders they met along the way.
Highlights of this summit included trudging through burn sites in Kakisa alongside local scientists to discover vegetation growing after a devastating forest fire and using a drill to get samples of permafrost right beside the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. The group took a tour of the newly developed Northern Farm Training Institute just outside of Hay River in which Summit delegates learned about the hope that local agriculture provides in the fight for sustainability in the North.
As a group the participants were also tasked with writing a formal collective declaration that identified key ways leaders in the North can act on Climate Change. This declaration was delivered at the concluding press conference. The four main points were that Northern Communities need to develop and strengthen local agricultural and animal harvesting systems to improve food security in the North. This includes sustainable local wild harvesting of animals and plants with a basis in cultural and language revitalization. Secondly, Climate Change education should be prominent in elementary and secondary school curriculum and communities are encouraged to include climate change education in their on-the-land learning programs. Thirdly, northerners must recognize that we have significant energy needs for space heating, electricity and transportation, but we can meet these needs through renewable energy. Lastly, territorial governments have an opportunity to take a leadership role in responding to climate change. Policies should focus on both mitigation and adaptation; governments should invest in renewable resources and cease support for the further development of fossil fuel industries.
The eight young ladies who attended the Summit enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other leaders from across the territories to create a network of individuals who are invested in the effects of Climate Change in the North. The Summit is scheduled to happen every two years, with the next one taking place in the summer of 2017. We hope to continue with the travelling Summit style and journey to Fort Smith with 10 to 15 participants.
Marissa Oteiza is the Hay River Office Manager
at Ecology North.