Youth climate group nominated for national award

Kingston Youth Climate Action is one of 15 finalists for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Future Ground Prize. Photo via the David Suzuki Foundation

A group of young climate activists in Kingston are in line for a prestigious award, with Kingston Youth Climate Action (KYCA) recently being named as finalists for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Future Ground Prize.

The award, a special youth edition of the foundation’s Future Ground Prize, aims to acknowledge the positive climate advocacy being done by young people in Ontario and British Columbia. Grand Prize winners will take home $5,000 in cash, as well as an invitation to a virtual event later in June, where the winning group will present their project to David Suzuki. 

KYCA is a Kingston-based group that seeks to encourage young people to get involved in the fight for climate justice. The organization is made up of 12 university students in the Kingston area, all of whom have played a key role in advancing climate action throughout the city. 

Sarah Gingles, a member of KYCA, said that the nomination recognizes the work young people are doing to advocate for climate action throughout the country. 

“It just really feels great because it’s not necessarily an award of our work, but just like the word getting out there that more youth groups are being involved in the climate crisis,” Gingles said. “And it’s not… slowly dying out after protests and stuff like that, but it keeps going. We’re going to… keep on pushing because of this; this is just a good acknowledgement and reminder that this is not just us… it includes everyone.”

In the past, the group has lobbied local councillors and other politicians, working with members of City Council to advance “community-led climate justice.”

“This year was really a foundation year,” Gingles said. “Our group changed a lot throughout the year. We met once a week, and some of our bigger projects [were] definitely our rallies, to [raise] awareness, [as well as] working in collaboration with Queen’s clubs… to make sure that City Council really stays true to their word” — referring to the City of Kingston’s 2019 declaration of a climate “emergency,” the first such move in Ontario, as well as recent environmental pledges. “[Kingston was] one of the first cities in Canada to demand climate action, and we wanted to hold [Council] accountable… That was our main goal for this year.”

Members of KYCA took part in many rallies and demonstrations over the past year, including a protest against RBC bank and its funding of fossil fuel projects. Image via KYCA.

KYCA is among 15 finalists for this year’s prize, six of which come from Ontario. Other entries include Kamloops Community Forest, an initiative aimed at “planting forests through Indigenous knowledge,” and MealCare Guelph Chapter, a group hoping to solve its community’s hunger problem while reducing “surplus food waste.”

Many of the groups vying for this year’s prize are focused on finding ways to encourage youth participation in climate advocacy, which aligns with the David Suzuki Foundation’s belief that “empowering people in Canada to be environmental leaders in their communities is key to building a better tomorrow,” as stated on the contest website.  

According to Gingles, it is important for young people to get involved with the cause now, as they will be the leaders of tomorrow: “Taking action now… better prepares us for what lies ahead and… [for] handling other huge environmental issues that are going to be left upon us.”

There are a number of different prizes available to be won by the 15 finalists. Members of the public have the chance to vote as part of the People’s Choice Prize, which will award $2,500 to the most popular initiative based on public votes. Voting for the People’s Choice Prize is open now, with members of the public able to cast a single ballot between now and June 13. In total, three different awards are up for grabs, with a panel of jurors selecting both the Grand Prize and the Rising Star Prize. The judging panel includes a number of well-known Canadian climate experts, such as Avi Lewis, Donna Sound, and Josh Reynolds.

Gingles affirmed that winning one of the cash prizes would be a major boost to KYCA’s efforts. “It would make a huge contribution to our group… Some of our restrictions this year [were] definitely financial concerns. So if we were to have more funds available to us and more outreach and networking with the David Suzuki Foundation, it would be a great contribution to our projects.”

One such project the group is hoping to implement next year is a climate action festival, with funds needed to host such an event. “We’re hoping to have a community festival to envision a more positive future beyond the climate crisis. So having values of sustainability, decolonization, and justice… that would all be incorporated into this huge festival that we would love to plan in the city of Kingston,” explained Gingles. 

Award recipients will be announced at a virtual reception on Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022. In the meantime, voting for the People’s Choice Prize is under way, with KYCA having received just over 200 votes with four days remaining before polls close.

As for why people should go online and cast a ballot, Gingles said, “It would mean a lot to us individually to… reaffirm that we’re on the right path, and we’re doing the right thing… Your vote would mean an incredible amount of support to us.” 

Voting is open now and closes on June 13. 

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