Thursday, July 25, 2013

Youth Voice Shines at Global Congress!

Youth participants in the World Congress and their mothers pictured on a birding trip.
Stephanie Pineau shares her experience of attending and helping to organize a youth workshop at the 2013 BirdLife International World Congress held in Ottawa, Canada in June. Stephanie completed her practicum for a Master in Psychology at Carleton University with Nature Canada. During her time with us, she focused on coordinating the workshop on youth for the Congress.

By Stephanie Pineau


The excitement was palpable at this year’s BirdLife International World Congress. Thursday saw the start of a variety of workshops with topics ranging from renewable energy to conservation issues.  However, one workshop stands out in its originality in terms of topic and method used to convey the message contain therein.  ‘A programme for connecting youth to nature’: the evidence is in, connection to nature is beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally for all of us, including youth.


That which added the greatest depth, inspiration, uniqueness, and long lasting motivation from this workshop however, was the heartfelt and insightful presentations from two youth.

Carlos Barbery gives a presentation at the Congress.
Carlos Barbery, a 13 year old from Gatineau, Canada who first became involved in birding at the age of 4 after learning the call of the raven, kicked off the presentations.  Carlos’ endearing nature was certainly present as he listed off the activities he’s involved in as a young conservationist including many citizen science projects and a birdathon fundraising event for conservation research. Carlos’ knowledge has reached such a level that in some instances he is now acting as the teacher rather than the student leading birding groups and presenting information on conservation at his school. 

The second powerfully conveyed message came from Tina Lin, a 12 year who has now been birding for only a couple of years. 
Her charming calm presence on stage was clearly a force of inspiration to the hearts and minds of all delegates in attendance.  Among other things, Tina has translated information from the RRSPB for engaging children in bird watching, for youth in China. While this in itself is immensely impressive, she also took to the stage at the fundraising Gala with guests such as Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan in attendance to discuss youth and nature with former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Secretary of the Treasurer under President George W. Bush, Henry Paulson.  The clarity with which she spoke is suggestive of the fact that we may be overlooking valuable sources of insight by excluding youth from our decision making processes.
Tina Lin gives speaks to the audience at the Congress' youth workshop.
The inclusion of the youth presenters in the Congress was a refreshing blend of intelligence and innocence as they fearlessly expressed their opinions and achievements to groups of adults.  The message they conveyed highlights the importance of having supportive adults who treat youth with the respect deserving of any human-being regardless of age.

Fortunately, the Congress was not all work for our youth presenters. 
Together with their mothers and some expert birders (of which Carlos is certainly one), they had the opportunity to engage in one of their favourite pastimes.  As the sun came up over lac du soleil in Gatineau Park they encountered a wide range of species including Yellow Warblers, Pine Warblers, Swamp Sparrow, Wood Ducks, a Green Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, and many more species. And as we see from these youth, they not only speak about the importance of engaging with nature in enclosed spaces, but actively seek out nature with all the enthusiasm and wonder (plus a massive amount of knowledge) that we would expect and hope to see in the youth of today.