Highlighting youth leaders: An interview with Rebecca Gunn Hansen
Youth leaders are emerging to lead the climate movement, demanding bold unprecedented action on the climate emergency. The motivation demonstrated by youth to tackle environmental issues is inspiring beyond words.
This is why, for more than two decades, Sierra Club BC has placed such a big focus on education and youth engagement: because we believe in the power of youth leaders who are working in all kinds of ways to make a positive difference in their communities.
Rebecca Gunn Hansen is one such youth leader. Rebecca took part in Sierra Club BC’s Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP). For many years, YELP provided a space for powerful and transformative youth learning on environmental issues. Communications Manager Kat Zimmer caught up with Rebecca to find out where she’s at now, and how Sierra Club BC’s youth programming made a difference in her life.
How old are you now? Where are you now?
I’m 20 years old, in my third year at the University of Victoria (I’m doing a double major in marine Biology and Environmental Studies), currently on a co-op in Germany.
What involvement did you have with Sierra Club BC’s youth programs?
I was part of YELP from Grade 10 to halfway through Grade 12 when the Sierra Club-led YELP stopped – so that would be Fall 2013 to Fall 2015.
What kinds of things are you doing now around environmental or social issues?
Because my co-op is through the Biology side of my degree, my jobs have been more science related recently, but I continue to volunteer with the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney and I support the Syrian refugee family that my family helped sponsor. I have also been volunteering with the Parks Canada Clam Garden restoration project, and took part in a Coast Salish Pit Cook at Fort Rodd Hill last fall.
Can you tell me about any impact your experience with Sierra Club BC had on the way you think, what values or priorities you hold now, what you’ve done since or what you’d like to do in the future?
YELP opened my eyes to Indigenous issues and the ideas of privilege, traditional ecological knowledge and environmental justice. It introduced me to projects like the restoration at SṈIDȻEȽ and the Community Toolshed, experiences which have contributed enormously to my studies. YELP led me to go beyond a traditional science degree and consider larger social and cultural issues, especially those around colonization, through the lens of environmental studies. It also contributed to me growing as a person, through meeting new people with other perspectives and experiences and learning to be more comfortable with expressing and being myself.
Since 1998, Sierra Club BC has been delivering innovative, experiential sustainability education for youth across BC, supporting thousands of young environmental leaders in developing the skills and knowledge needed to create a more just and sustainable world. We offer free climate change workshops for middle school youth and resources for teachers to talk about the climate emergency with their students.