The Kids Are All Right

Tired of Planet S writers’ constant climate complaints? Fine. Listen to these grade nine students.

Earlier this year, Planet S got an e-mail from Michael Prebble, a teacher at Tommy Douglas Collegiate, about his school’s Off The Grid program. Off The Grid helps students learn about the pressing environmental issues of our time from a scientific and social perspective.

Would Planet S be interested, Michael asked, in publishing a few essays by Off The Grid students?

Yes. Yes it would, I said.

It’s become a cliché to point out how the consequences of human-caused climate change, mass extinction, pollution and ecological degradation will affect young people most profoundly. After all, climate change affects all of us, from the elderly to retiring Baby Boomers to bitter, whiny Gen-Xers (cough) to Millennials on down. That said, the younger you are, the longer you’re likely to live — which means you’ll be most affected by the crappy consequences of humanity’s often reckless, clueless and basically criminal environmental mismanagement.

The cliché is true.

That’s why we’re thrilled to publish these essays by Tommy Douglas grade nine students Paige Leonhardt, Olivia Morelli, Alyssa Rathgeber and Lauren Wright. After several blown deadlines — all at, umm, my end — Planet S is delighted to finally hand a page over to some local young humans with a huge stake in a sustainable future. These kids have the intellectual confidence to know there are solutions to the runaway environmental crisis we find ourselves in.

I’m sure they would agree with whoever it was that once said, “Courage, my friend; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”

These essays were lightly edited for publication and length. /Stephen Whitworth

What Do We Want? Carbon Taxes! When Do We Want Them? Yesterday!

The Saskatchewan Party government insists “Standing Up for Saskatchewan” means standing against the federal government’s carbon tax.

The problem with that is it’s a fight they’re extremely unlikely to win (they’ve already lost round one).

The government’s current course of action redirects resources away from such areas as education, social services and public libraries — all to fight costly, losing court battles against the federal government.

Some complain about a carbon tax hurting lower-income people. Well, Climate Change Canada reports the carbon tax will give the average household an expected $598 rebate in 2019. If the carbon tax gives Saskatchewan families a sufficient rebate and the Sask. Party’s fight wastes money, which ends up being better?

The Sask. Party has decided their climate change plan only needs to say what they think people want to hear: “no taxes”. Meanwhile, their so-called green initiatives are a good start, but fall short of the Paris Climate Agreement’s call to reduce emissions.

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) graded their plan and gave it a 54 per cent.

Trust someone in grade nine: that’s not a mark to brag about.

“Standing Up for Saskatchewan” shouldn’t mean wasting tax dollars fighting the inevitable. Our government should look to other, greener countries for ideas to become more energy efficient. There are ways to fight climate change without losing what is special about Saskatchewan.

/Olivia Morelli

Why Saskatoon Needs A Youth Climate Committee

The climate crisis is past the point of denial and inaction. Despite this, our provincial government seems more focused on ignoring climate change.

Perhaps politicians need help. A Saskatoon youth climate committee could bring focus to climate issues.

Young people need to be at the forefront of conversations around environmental policies locally. Teens like Greta Thunberg lead the charge for government action on a wide variety of climate issues. We’re seeing the impact youth can have worldwide, and it’s time to bring this to Saskatchewan.

Our class recently hosted a Climate Speaker Series to spark conversation on the changes we wish to see in our cities. Topics such as the carbon tax, housing standards and transportation were discussed with fellow high school students and community members. This event was meant, in part, to nudge city councils to make change.

A youth climate committee would bring teens from around Regina and Saskatoon together to work on environmental policies. This group would interact with city councils and ensure that youth voices are heard. It would also make sure environmental issues were brought to the governments’ attention.

At the end of the day, our governments — municipal, provincial and federal — aren’t doing enough to combat climate change. It’s our future, but everyone would all benefit from youth ideas being not only heard, but implemented.

/Lauren Wright

Why We Need to Care About Glacier Loss

The climate crisis is a complicated issue with a lot of moving parts. One climate change impact not often considered in Saskatchewan has a connection to where our water comes from.

Our indifference is fuelling catastrophic consequences on Canada’s glaciers.

Our class learned from Dr. John Pomeroy that 10 per cent of the Earth’s surface area is covered in glacial formations. Basically, a glacier is snow and ice that has been under pressure for a long time, creating a solid mass. Glaciers have many functions, including regulating temperature, supplying water and shaping the land around them.

But according to Global Water Futures, we are losing glaciers to rising global temperatures, which causes glaciers to melt fast. Every year, 400 billion tons of glaciers are lost, contributing to sea level rise.

We traveled to Jasper and saw the shrinking glaciers firsthand through our unique school program.

So, why do we need to care about glaciers? Well, glaciers act as a freezer for the world. When they melt, the sea rises. This causes displacement and habitat loss for both humans and animals. To make this situation worse, approximately 68 per cent of the Earth’s freshwater comes from glaciers, as stated by a U.S. government website. Alberta, for example, is home to one of North America’s largest glacial ranges. This provides water for a lot of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Our glaciers are disappearing quickly and saving them must happen.

/Paige Leonhardt, Olivia Morelli, Alyssa Rathgeber, and Lauren Wright

Saskatchewan Could Be Leading The Way In Sustainable Energy. Why Aren’t We?

According to Environment Canada, Saskatchewan is one of the sunniest places and windiest provinces in Canada.

So why aren’t we going green?

Solar panels are one alternative to coal. At any given time, the sun beams 173 terawatts of energy onto the earth. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. As well, solar panel manufacturing doesn’t have nearly the same harmful carbon footprint as the oil and gas sector.

Wind power might be even more exciting than solar, because it uses less space. For example, farmers can still farm crops with turbines on their land.

Also, we wouldn’t have to hire all-new people to operate these renewable farms and plants, as oil industry workers can be retrained through a process of slowly phasing out the oil and gas sector. In the near future, we will run out of resources to continue our reliance on oil and gas anyway, which will cause a massive unemployment bubble to pop. We need to think long-term and, as a province, invest in protecting our environment and the people and families within it.

We have the ability to power our province and contribute to a healthier planet. The Saskatchewan Provincial and Municipal Governments needs to step up and utilize our full sustainable energy potential.

We also have plenty of space for wind and solar in Sask.

Look for more Off The Grid essays in the next issue of Planet S!