As part of a Serie Highlighting the work of young people to address the climate crisis, writer Patricia Lane interviews Malaika Collette, one of Canada’s 350 climate champions.
Malaika Collette passed the election campaign period at full speed. He spent hours texting voters urging them to support candidates identified as climate champions by 350 Canada. He hosted an all-candidate debate on climate justice, which highlighted the need for climate action. Malaika also hosted and co-moderated a high school debate attended by over 850 students on her horseback riding.
When I spoke to her on the eve of the federal elections, this 18-year-old was eager to cast her vote for the first time and then, after taking a break, prepare to re-engage with other young people who were assuming leadership at the COP. 26.
Tell us about your efforts during this election.
I really enjoyed having meaningful conversations with voters about choosing a candidate who will prioritize action on climate justice. Sometimes this meant talking to them about why a particular candidate was a stronger climate champion than another. If they supported that person, I encouraged them to volunteer for them and donate. Sometimes it meant giving basic information, such as where the polling station was and what hours the polls were open. I was pleased to learn that despite the fact that on my Peterborough-Kawartha trip, our unfair electoral system means that we are unlikely to elect a strong climate candidate, (but) it could help advance this crucial agenda.
I wanted to raise the profile of climate justice with the local candidates, so I helped organize a meeting of all the candidates in my own leadership. Two hundred people attended, which meant that all four candidates had to take into account the reality that people on this tour really do care about the climate emergency, and decision makers must accept responsibility for the lack of action to date. . It was very rewarding to help develop discussion questions that resonated with young people and helped link justice issues to the climate emergency.
I wanted to provide a meaningful way to attract high school students. Although many still cannot vote, they will soon and all have families who have conversations about values. I presented a discussion that was attended by 850 students from 30 classes from the region. I’m glad to hear that you were able to speak better with your friends and family after that, and that votes in this region will be much better informed.
What was the spark for you to get so involved?
My parents have always been concerned about environmental issues, but what really attracted me was a course called Youth Leadership in Sustainability. That semester, I learned about the issues in my own community and how to make my voice heard. It gave me the confidence to do interviews with the media, speak with municipal councilors and organize myself together with other people.
“My parents have always been concerned about environmental issues, but what really attracted me was a course called Youth Leadership in Sustainability,” says climate activist @MalaikaCollette. #ClimateCrisis # COP26
What makes organizing around climate justice difficult?
Knowing how important it is. This summer, I remember walking up the hill to my house after work and seeing fields covered in smoke from wildfires elsewhere. I saw warnings about air quality and temperatures over 30 degrees on my phone. This is not a smoggy city in a distant country. This is rural Canada. If we do not see the changes that we are promoting soon, we will have no future.
As a young person without much influence, it can be daunting to see politicians and industry leaders contributing to the delay. But then I talk to a lot of other people who are committed and whose work is obviously making a difference and I feel hopeful. It was really gratifying to know that my conversations with the voters meant that the climate champion candidates will get more votes as a result of my efforts.
What’s next for you?
Last November, when it became clear to young people around the world that adults were not going to do much to replace COP 26, hundreds of young people from around the world organized ours. “COP26 drill. “Out of this came a Global Youth Treaty, setting out 18 principles that we urge world leaders to adopt and bring to others in Glasgow in November this year. I will direct my attention to this and to the global climate strikes, which begin on the 24th. of September.
What would you like to say to other young people?
Involve. It’s fun, rewarding, and easier than you think. Talk to another young person like yourself or a teacher or reach out to a group that you see is organizing in your community. They need your energy and ideas, and you will learn and feel supported.
Is there anything you would like to say to older readers?
We need you too. You have experience in managing past disasters and crises and we cannot do it without you. Lend your hands, heads and hearts to any organization that speaks to and supports the young people around you in the work they do.