Groundbreaking initiatives help Canadian youth address climate change

Jul 29 2020, 1:00 pm

RBC Tech for Nature is a multi-year, global initiative by the RBC Foundation dedicated to preserving the planet’s greatest wealth — our natural ecosystem. It supports new ideas, technologies, and partnerships to address and solve pressing environmental challenges.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we will face in our lifetime.

In Canada, climate change is transforming our landscape with floods, forest fires, extreme weather, sea ice melt, coastal erosion, and drought, while also impacting the wildlife that calls our lands and waters home.

Heatwaves, smog episodes, and ecological changes that support the spread of vector-borne diseases here in Quebec could pose implications for our health as a result of climate change.

Two Canadian charities are taking a stand and inspiring action against climate change through education and technology. This is salient for our generation (and the generations to follow) because when we understand the impacts on our planet and our health, we’re better motivated to take action.

Arctic Eider Society/Société des Eiders de L’Arctique

Many Indigenous communities have a strong, lifelong connection to nature and have experienced first-hand the effects of climate change. However, for a long period of time, much Indigenous knowledge was traditionally shared only via oral history.

The Arctic Eider Society (AES), a charity based in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, is working to ensure that this knowledge lives on and benefits our planet. The AES works with communities across Hudson Bay and Inuit Nunangat, exploring Indigenous-driven solutions for environmental and social justice issues in the Arctic, Canada, and worldwide.

Over the last three decades, studied Indigenous knowledge has revealed gaps for research in areas like sea ice habitats and wildlife ecology. That’s why the AES delivers programs that build self-determination across three pillars: community-driven research, education and outreach, and stewardship.

To help address the priorities within these areas, the organization created a technology tool called the Indigenous Knowledge Social Network (SIKU). This platform, made by and for Inuit, was launched in December 2019, and it allows everything from high-resolution satellite imagery to remote sensing, weather tides, and marine and ice data to be stored in one place.

“Inuit youth are like young people everywhere. We are on our smartphones a lot. We’re sharing our stories, messaging with each other, sending photos, videos, and memes. We’re living with instant information in small chunks all the time,” said Candice Pedersen from Cambridge Bay, a member of the SIKU team. “The platform allows us, with a few clicks, to capture our data every time we go hunting, or are on the land, and gradually build up important data sets, which we have complete control over.”

In addition to strengthening knowledge transfer and language, SIKU allows individuals to retain ownership and control over their intellectual property rights, privacy, and data stewardship.

The technology is being delivered at scale to communities across Inuit Nunangat through the AES’ partnerships with federal departments, Inuit governments, regional Inuit organizations, non-profits, researchers, service providers, guardians, and environmental monitoring programs.

As a tool for sharing and disseminating project activities and results on an ongoing basis, SIKU is becoming an important resource not only for Indigenous communities, but also for climate adaption and safety and environmental stewardship.

Earth Rangers/Éco Héros

Earth Rangers/Facebook

Children are the future of our planet, and how they see the world can determine the actions they take as they grow older. Earth Rangers is dedicated to educating every child in Canada about environmental knowledge and encouraging the adoption of sustainable behaviours early in life.

As the world’s largest youth environmental organization, it has over 200,000 members and 150 volunteers across Canada. To achieve its mission, Earth Rangers offers engaging programs that youth can participate in at home, at school, and in their communities. Each program communicates why it’s not too late to help the planet, and how the things we do today will matter tomorrow.

“Children have an innate connection to nature and desire to protect it,” said Tovah Barocas, president of Earth Rangers. “By using the power of technology we can not only provide children with the tools they need to take action but also show them the impact of those actions, a critical step towards building a lasting conservation ethic and instilling a sense of optimism for the future.”

Now, to help foster real-world environmental actions for the future, the team at Earth Rangers is developing an app to engage youth with a more immersive gaming-inspired experience. It will also track participation and calculate each participant’s resulting positive environmental impact.

Members can vote on conservation projects they feel passionate about and connect with other members based on their interests. Meanwhile, in-app leaderboards show members how their sustainable efforts compare with others around the country and all over the world. The app is also set to support conservation efforts by facilitating animal adoptions.

Together with their families, Earth Rangers members can take action and participate in real-world activities called “missions” which could be anything from cleaning up a local park or shoreline, to cutting down on their single-use plastics. Larger scale limited-time community goals will also engage members to work together to achieve tangible results. The Earth Rangers app will provide a safe and enclosed environment for kids to become responsible stewards of our planet, and inspire optimism for the future.

Both the Arctic Eider Society and Earth Rangers are supported by RBC Tech for Nature, a commitment to support new ideas, technologies, and partnerships that address and solve pressing environmental issues.

“At RBC, we believe climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The actions we take today can prepare us with the solutions needed to protect our shared future,” said Valerie Chort, vice-president, corporate citizenship, RBC. “We’re proud to be partnering with organizations like Earth Rangers and Arctic Eider Society to empower Canadian youth to not only be aware of the actions being taken, but to play an active role in moving our world to its more sustainable future.”

RBC believes that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time — and that technology and data have the power to transform and improve our world with long-term solutions. That’s why RBC Tech for Nature is bringing technology experts, the private and public sector, and charitable partners together to work toward solving our shared environmental challenges. Learn more about RBC Tech for Nature on their website.

The initiative is a core pillar of the RBC Climate Blueprint — an enterprise approach to accelerating clean economic growth and supporting clients in the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

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