May 2021 Newsletter - Shining a light on youth voices

Check out our updates from a busy and exciting spring!

Reclaiming the Environmental Narrative

The environmental movement has had a long history of excluding or not representing Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). Mainstream representations of environmentalists have been overly homogeneous and typically white. Unfortunately, this problem of non-BIPOC representation still continues today. At the same time, despite BIPOC and racialized communities often carrying the burden and consequences of environmental racism and injustices, they are champions of and frequently responsible for longstanding and unrewarded environmental protection work. 

In efforts to help further shine a light to young BIPOC voices already making a difference in the environmental movement, Be the Change Earth Alliance launched the Reclaiming the Environmental Narrative (REN) project. REN aims to share the perspectives of youth, aged 14-24, from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds across British Columbia related to pressing environmental challenges. Engaging youth with decolonial and intersectional approaches, this project will enable young changemakers to challenge homogeneous, mainstream narratives surrounding environmental challenges. As part of REN, youth will develop a multimedia story that explores and examines their relationship to and interactions with the environment, and the environmental challenges and issues that are important to them and their community. Each participant’s story is meant to share their cross-cultural connections and learnings, lived experiences, and knowledges of nature, environmental racism and environmental justice. 

Introducing Be the Change’s New Program Assistants

We are happy to welcome Esmé Decker, Shalen Chen and Tia Bankosky to the Be the Change team. Over the coming months, the wonderful program and administrative assistants will be helping Be the Change develop an assortment of resources and workshops related to the Sustainable Development Goals, along with helping with other existing and upcoming projects such as Reclaiming the Environmental Narrative and Youth for Climate Action.

Esmé Decker

Esmé is a Japanese-Irish settler, born and raised on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-waututh, and Squamish peoples in so-called “Vancouver”. She has just finished her first year as a student in the UBC Faculty of Arts studying literary, historical, and philosophical texts in the Arts One program. Her climate organization journey began with leading school strikes since the first global climate strike on March 15th, 2019, organizing with Metro-Vancouver’s youth climate strike network Sustainabiliteens, then volunteering through the UBC Climate Hub on the Youth Climate Ambassador Project (YCAP) workshops, and now has led to her joining the BTCEA team as a Summer Program Assistant! 

Esmé is grateful and excited to be part of a team of changemakers and educators who practice such understanding and put so much care into their work. She hopes to bring her experience and voice to building new workshops and resources for all ages to learn from together. 

Shalen Chen

Shalen (she/her) is a second generation, Taiwanese settler born and raised on the traditional, unceded Coast Salish Lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations in so-called Burnaby. She is a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Global Resource Systems, specializing in sustainable urban development and global environmental policy. Throughout her undergrad, she has been exploring the intersections of climate change, urban sustainability, and environmental justice, and has learned a lot from her diverse experiences from working with Environment and Climate Change Canada, UBC Campus and Community Planning, and in student sustainability organizing.

As the new Administration Assistant, Shalen is excited to learn from and support the diverse social and environmental education programming that BCTEA offers, and help create a community that is accessible and inclusive for all.

Tia Bankosky

Tia is a settler Canadian born on the north shore of Lake Ontario in Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and Haudenosaunee territory, also known as Ka’tarohkwi or Kingston, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of Trent University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences. Over the course of her undergraduate career through courses, volunteer work, and part-time work, she became involved in Indigenous, environmental, and social justice activism. Tia has become passionate about the intersectionality of our personal positionalities, the influence of cultural norms or expectations and how they influence our relationships with the environment and each other. She has begun to push herself to think of new ways to give back to these relations in respectful and beneficial ways. She believes that relationality and reciprocity are fundamental elements of equitable environmental justice and change-making work. 

Tia is excited to begin working with Be the Change as a Program Assistant. She sees this an incredible opportunity to engage with intersectional issues and other people passionate about Indigenous and environmental justice. 

That’s all for now! Be the Change is able to continue its work empowering students and youth through our kind donors. Please donate today!


George Radner (he/his)
Executive Director

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