Kasey Chen believes young people must get involved. NationalObserver Ap 24
This 17-year-old Grade 12 student from Victoria, B.C., is a recipient of a 2022 Youth Climate Activism Award for her work raising awareness about the importance of recycling at her high school, reclaiming habitat from invasive species and encouraging native plant gardening, and lobbying all three levels of government on youth concerns about climate change.
Kasey Chen holds a native sprout to transplant to Mount Douglas Secondary's school garden. Photo supplied by Kasey Chen
Tell us about some of your work. As a member of the environmental leadership program at Mount Douglas Secondary School, I am involved in tending the native plant meadow and holding plant sales to raise funds for its support. We also restore the rare Garry oak ecosystem in a nearby park by weeding invasive species and planting native plants like camas. After I read an article from the Sierra Club of BC about the importance of old-growth forests, I helped create a display and presented it in schools to increase awareness about some of the gaps in government policy.
At present, as one of Arian Tomar’s mentees, I am running competitions and giving presentations to raise awareness among students and teachers about ways to improve recycling at our school.
I joined the Greater Victoria Climate Hub in early 2022 and have been working on a project to implement air-quality monitors at my school to study whether there is a difference in air quality when students are being picked up and dropped off for school and when school is not in session. If this project succeeds, I hope its findings will influence my school and community to explore cleaner transport.
When my environmental leadership program faculty liaison told me the BC Climate Alliance was looking for youth voices, I joined them to lobby provincial MLAs to better monitor the methane that leaks from fracking gas, increase the carbon tax and apply it to all greenhouse gas emissions, and limit subsidies to oil and gas. I also attended a discussion with NDP MP Laurel Collins about including anesthetic gases in the federal government’s GHG inventory.
As a member of the Victoria City Youth Council, I spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to remember that because many people cannot afford electric cars, the government must place a priority on public transit.
Kasey Chen speaks with PM Justin Trudeau and Mayor Lisa Helps as part of the City of Victoria Youth Council. Photo by Adam Scotti/PMO
Tell us about your background. When I entered high school, I had never heard about sustainability, youth activism or climate protests. But in the last few years, the more I learned about Earth's amazing biodiversity and the more I heard about polluted habitats, endangered species, and broken government promises, the more I felt the need for urgent, widespread climate action.
I believe we young people, as the inheritors of the Earth, can only create lasting change if we get involved.
What makes your work hard? It is sometimes hard to feel I am making a difference. Politicians often don’t provide satisfactory responses to the issues we raise. Our native plant garden is lovely but it is very small. Improving recycling at one school can feel insignificant.
What gives you hope? There is so much change happening if you just look for it. People are doing amazing things, like turning seaweed into plastic substitutes and finding bugs that eat toxins. I learn about these stories and know that I am playing a part.
Chen receives the 2022 Youth Climate Activism Award from I-SEA, presented by board member Marion Pape. Photo provided by Peter Allan
Is there anything about how you were raised that influenced you? My mother and I came from China when I was four years old. She's an inspiration to me and always encourages me to find and follow my dreams.
What do you see if we succeed in creating the kind of future you want? We will have intact forests and thriving biodiversity. Transit will be so attractive that people won’t need private electric vehicles. Decision-makers will listen and act to protect us. People will be healthy.
Sadikshya Baral, Amelita Kucher and Kasey Chen sell native seeds and plants as part of the Mount Douglas environmental leadership program. Photo provided by Kasey
Do you have any advice for other young people? Find your passion and follow where it leads. There are environmental clubs at your school or in your city. If not, start one. Start small. It all matters and it will make you happy to work on something you care about.
What about older readers? Encourage young people. Use your platforms and opportunities to support us.