"Thank you. With deep, deep gratitude" : A reflection on youth climate action with Creative Director Maureen Jack-LaCroix

I’m sitting with Maureen Jack-LaCroix, founder and creative director of Be the Change Earth Alliance, to discuss her thoughts about the moment of youth climate activism we currently find ourselves in.

1. Maureen - who are you, and why were you drawn to climate activism through education? 

I’m Maureen Jack-LaCroix, the founder and Creative Director of Be the Change Earth Alliance. 

After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Political Science, I was a bit disenchanted with humanity and found a career in the music industry. Music was one core aspect of humanity I could still believe in. I flourished in the music industry; it’s very independent, creative, and multi-faceted. 

And yet, throughout this time, I was hearing a call from Gaia that got stronger and stronger over time. I was constantly approaching non-profits and asking “what can I do.” I would write the letter, sign the petition, write the cheque. Finally I thought - “this isn’t enough.” We can’t expect the non-profits to do all of this work for us, we all have to do something. 

I then went and completed a Master’s in Eco-Psychology, I closed my production company, and founded Be the Change Earth Alliance. I found that my version of activism and working in service for Earth was through education. This was what suited my psyche best. 

Be the Change has also been a way to help people like myself determine what we can do on an individual basis to make a difference. It has led me to a deep exploration into what we can do…  And that’s been a very rewarding process. It’s been an amazing fifteen years working with teachers, creating materials, learning resources, and workshops to support them in bringing eco-social education to students that need it and want it so much. 

2. You recently attended the ‘die-in’ hosted by the Sustainabiliteens in downtown Vancouver - can you describe what this event was?

The ‘die-in’ was a remarkable experience where students - hundreds of students - went into the Pacific Centre Mall’s food court and collapsed. They acted as if they were dead for eleven minutes. These eleven minutes were a representation of the eleven years we have to turn back our carbon emissions. Eleven years is such an incredibly short period of time, but those eleven minutes lasted a very long time... to witness our youth lying lifeless in this crowded food mart was really impactful.

3. Why was it so powerful, what did you feel when you were watching it?

I felt huge grief. I felt a huge generational responsibility. I felt a lot of love. And I felt great respect. Respect for our youth... and just huge grief that they should have to enact their impending death, and that of countless species, to get peoples’ attention... because this fact is so true, so real. So it was hugely impactful.

4. After a long career of environmental activism through education, how does the current youth-led climate movement, beyond the events you’ve witnessed here in Vancouver over the last week, make you feel? 

I am greatly encouraged to see the response that youth have generated through their actions. I feel inspired that this turn of events has come about - it was so unexpected. And I feel so grateful that when Gaia calls out, people do really hear... And of course the youth and the Indigenous people would hear before everyone else! 

I think it’s been remarkable to witness this Great Turning being led by the most unexpected and yet the most natural of leaders. Hearing Greta Thunberg speak over the past months and at the UN summit this week - I can’t help but think she is our own Joan of Arc. With all her pure power and grace, speaking truth with integrity and conviction… And while Joan of Arc inspired the troops to win the day, she was ultimately betrayed by politicians! So I also recognize the seriousness of this parallel situation.

5. What would be your message to Vancouver’s students as they head out on strike this Friday the 27th? 

Thank you. With deep, deep gratitude. Know that you are not alone. Know that generations have come before you and have also faced insurmountable odds, and yet have progressed. And that we shall also continue to evolve and progress. There are generations of people behind you, standing with you. Your leadership is irreplaceable, essential, and symbolizes the soul of humanity.