Earl Marriott Secondary Grade 9 student Kaitlyn Blair received a warm welcome from White Rock council Monday night in recognition of her leadership and role in a White Rock Climate Protest event that took place Sept. 27 outside city hall.
Blair had submitted a letter to council during the protest – part of the Global Climate Strike action inspired by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg – and at the meeting she was invited to read it directly to council.
Mayor Darryl Walker noted that while the climate protest had been attended by Blair and many of her fellow students, the timing had been less than ideal in gaining council’s attention.
“Unfortunately, many of the council were unable to be in attendance that day – we were in (Vancouver) at the (Union of BC Municipalities conference),” Walker said. “But we invite Kaitlyn here tonight to share her story.”
In a statement prior to reading her letter, Blair said the purpose of the protest had been to make clear “how crucial it is for us to take action for the climate crisis … our future is in jeopardy.”
Blair, who is a member of the school’s environmental club, said that she and other students had made a list of some ways the city could become more environmentally friendly.
These include creating less waste – close to 1,400 kg of waste is created per person, per year in Metro Vancover, she said.
“Some super easy ways to create less waste are phasing out single-use plastic and encouraging people to bring their own commonly used items, and we should be encouraging people and businesses to try their best to reduce the amount of waste they create.”
She said that the city could encourage a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by creating a bike-sharing system like Vancouver’s; increasing the number of charging stations for electric cars; and encouraging people to choose less carbon-emitting modes of transportation.
Homes could also be greener, she suggested, adding that the installation of solar panels in newly-built homes could provide a natural, more energy-efficient source of power as well as saving money. She added that Peninsula residents should also be trying their best to save water, compost and recycle, and grow food in their own home gardens, or be provided with more community garden options.
Blair also stressed the importance of educating White Rock citizens on climate change, which could include holding conferences in area schools – which would also, she suggested, provide a focus and incentive for bringing the community together to create plans for tackling the climate crisis.
Walker – who later presented Blair with a certificate of recognition and other gifts from the city – thanked her for her thoughts.
“In the city, we are trying to do something but we don’t always get it right and sometimes we lapse a little bit,” he said, noting that the city is trying to get more electric vehicle charging stations, has established a community garden at Centennial Park, developed a community energy and emissions plan, and a community-wide climate action plan “these are nice things, but we need more of them, and we need your help with that.
“The fight against climate change provides youth like you with an opportunity to become engaged in a movement that’s bigger than one person, that’s bigger than one country – it’s all of us together. It’s wonderful to know that we have such passionate young people in White Rock – you’re an inspiration to all of us.”
Coun. Erika Johanson, council liaison on the city’s environmental advisory committee, invited Blair to join in committee meetings, starting this month, while Coun. Helen Fathers, who recently attended Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Conference, moved that council ask for Blair to be given free admission to next year’s conference, which was unanimously approved.
Blair said she plans to do more research and increase her knowledge about climate change and environmental steps to lessen it, and is eager to attend any conferences and meetings that could help her learn more.
Coun. Christopher Trevelyan praised the practicality of Blair’s presentation, moving that staff compile a corporate report on how the goals outlined by Blair could be met by the city – which was also endorsed by council.
“All the asks, in my opinion, are realistic and achievable,” he said. “That’s really important, because we get a lot of promises and a lot of big talk, but what can you actually do today or tomorrow, in our city, the part of the world that we can control?”