An “Intern”ational Perspective on SPEC’s Climate Change Workshop for Ninth Graders

Hello fellow SPEC friends, donors and volunteers, Jamie here.

I started my internship at SPEC about a week ago.. I am a student from Sweden, and I´m on my last semester in school. Doing an internship is mandatory, and I wanted to do something different. Coming to Vancouver was easy to decide when I started to read about it. Now I can help out as a research student — see below for a document on Canadian climate indicators that I found — as well as learn about SPEC and the work SPEC does. I’m so excited to be here. 

On Tuesday, I participated in two SPEC Climate Change workshops at Kitsilano Secondary School for ninth graders — and that was something let me tell you. I went there not knowing what to expect.

First of all the school is huge. I got lost. It´s not that I haven´t entered a big school before, but this one was a maze. I turned two corners, then I looked back and I didn´t recognize my whereabouts. It all looked the same to me. 

When I finally arrived, my next surprise was that the class was taught in French. Oh dear. I know two more languages besides English, being Finish born in Sweden. I had both languages taught to me, not bragging at all, but French is not one of them. So again I felt a little lost.

Amelia was holding the Climate Change workshops (in English luckily) and she´s really sweet. She was the facilitator and is a SPEC volunteer. In this workshop, secondary school students learn about climate change and our current methods for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.  

We all have experienced an increase of storms, flooding and drought. So, it was really interesting to hear what we, as humans, have done to make the environment go haywire, or as we say in Sweden,gå åt skogen.” 

Some of the information Amelia shared made me feel like a participant on the TV show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” And, I didn’t know what to answer. I felt clueless.

In the second workshop I felt more comfortable in my shoes and was able to participate in the group activity. The students, in groups, discussed and decided how they thought we could help the Earth not exceed the 2° pre-industrial temperature limit.

The group activity is a game adapted from a Princeton University developed workshop, the Stabilization Wedges Game. The students pick 8 of 15 carbon reducing strategies that they though would keep carbon emissions flat for the next 50 years.

We could use, for instance, wind electricity or nuclear energy wedges. It was really interesting to see how the first class was for nuclear energy and many in the second workshop were against it. One of the boys looked at me and whispered, “I don´t think nuclear energy is as bad as everyone says.”

This was another surprise for me that the boys in the classes had such strong opinions. Many of the girls were all for being as green as possible; whereas the boys thought nuclear energy has had more success over the course of years, and it is not as harmful as many let on.

Sometimes the discussion got a bit heated (pun intended). That’s when I decide I should help out. 

When I mentioned my country, Sweden, as a good example of different ways to produce energy, according to the students this wasn’t a fair example. According to them, Sweden has the best living standards and is one of the leading countries in reusable energy. 

First of all, I didn´t know that they knew so much about Sweden. Second of all, as a Swedish citizen, I still think we have a lot to learn. Not everything is perfect in Sweden. 

This workshop has given me a really good recap of what I learned in school, so I noted to myself that maybe we, as a country, need Climate Change Workshops too.  

I found it really meaningful that volunteers like Amelia can remind us about climate change, not to go over the 2° limit, and to think twice before taking the car.

I mean, after two World Wars and the Industrial Revolution, in just the last one hundred years, we have changed the way we live quite significantly. If we are going to continue to use cars the way we do now AND even increase their usage, yes then I think we are on a slippery slope, and it’s raining.

Here is the document I found, Indicators of Canada’s Changing Climate, which identifies changes to Canada’s climate over the past 50 to 100 years, along with some selected impacts on Canadians and their environment.

All the best,