Ask any environmental leader and they can likely tell you about an experience with nature, often from a young age, that inspired them to stand up for the environment. These special relationships fuel the desire to protect it when it is being threatened. Unfortunately, not everyone has had opportunities to develop these close connections as increasing urbanization often has the effect of depriving many of direct contact with nature, as indoor and screen time are beginning to dominate the lives of many youth. This growing disconnect is why it’s important, now more than ever, to get youth excited about the outdoors, demonstrate their connection to nature and help ignite a passion for the environment and their future.
In 2016, Raincoast launched the Salish Sea Emerging Stewards program, taking youth on a journey through marine and terrestrial environments to discover the local habitats, wildlife, Indigenous culture and history of coastal British Columbia. The highlight is sailing throughout the Salish Sea on Raincoast’s 66-foot sailing vessel, the Achiever, where youth have inspiring wildlife encounters with whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions on the water, trek through lush rainforests on land, scour for invertebrates in intertidal zones, and visit sites with evidence of First Nations past including ancient middens, clam gardens, and pictograph sites. Throughout the program, environmental threats and conservation challenges are highlighted, and youth are engaged to think critically about cause and effect relationships and ways to address these challenges. The program works in partnership with scientists, regional experts and educators, and local First Nations for a program that blends ecology and science with cultural knowledge and perspectives.
The impacts and importance of this program for youth is quickly gaining momentum, with participants coming out of the program seeking more opportunities to learn and get involved. Now gearing up for our third season, I’m excited for the future of the program which includes a growing partnership network, extended programming, skills development, youth-led projects, and active community engagement.
The program is offered free of charge to local First Nations and at-risk youth to help reduce barriers and make environmental learning more accessible. A big thank you goes out to all our funders of the 2018 program, and previous funders, who make it possible to engage the youth.
For the coast and the next generation.