Sean Bernard takes on the weight of climate change
- By Liam O’Connor | December 16, 2022
With the weight of the world on his generation’s shoulders, Sean Bernard, a grade 12 student from Meadow Lake, Sask. feels a sense of hope after taking on the massive task of presenting at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Summit, also called Conference of the Parties (COP27).
Bernard was chosen for the project by his northern lifestyles teacher, Tanis Crawford, which he said is because of his known student advocacy within Carpenter High School.
“We need our youth who we’re educating as teachers,” said Crawford. “We need our youth holding us as adults responsible for it (climate change) because they are inheriting this.”
With a team of other like-minded youth leaders from around the world, Bernard and the team met over various Zoom meetings, where they created the Global Child Manifesto,
The manifesto entails problems in the student’s communities around the planet, then solutions and their own personal opinions.
Because you’re Indigenous, do you have a different understanding and relationship with the environment that may have been of benefit to the COP27 presentation?
Bernard: I had a sense of responsibility that I felt to take this on, and not only for myself, or for the indigenous communities, and especially my communities. So I feel like there’s an under-representation of our communities and these indigenous people.
Recently, a new UN analysis indicates that the planet is not on track to meet the Paris climate accord agreement. How does that make you feel as a youth inheriting the environmental catastrophe that scientists are predicting?
Bernard: At first, it seems scary. And it is a little a sense of like, worrisome, but after this experience, after working with the children that I worked with, like people my age, I have a sense of hope. Now, the sense of this positivity that we’re here, and we’re wanting to learn, and we want to demand our voice, we want to advocate our voice out there.
Why do you think there is a sense of urgency in your generation compared to others?
Bernard: Well for me, there is no planet-B, there is only Earth, and this is where for me as an Indigenous person the earth is the spirit and the earth is the relationship that we have with the earth is so special on that connection. And the urgency for me is that losing that connection is very, very hard for my community, my traditions, my culture and my identity.
In your opinion, what’s preventing countries from meeting environomental goals?
Bernard: We have to start finding different ways we can start living rather than having this linear way of living. Because if we have this linear way of living, there’s no sustainability, there’s no sense of cycle. We can’t recycle what we’re doing.
Which environmental area specifically could Canada strive to improve currently?
Bernard: From living in Saskatchewan, and also being a neighbor to Alberta, we’re very high on oil, we’re very high on fossil fuels and that’s how our economy works here. We have to start making this change, where it’s not going to be our main economy, we have to start creating some sustainable energy and sustainable jobs where people can actually start working in a different field rather than in the oil fields and in the fossil fuel industry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.