With the twin intentions of fostering youth involvement in politics and promoting an environmentally friendly Saskatoon, the people behind 2008’s We Are Many festival organized an action summit for May 14.
Public transit and bottled water are the main environmental concerns the summit dealt with. WAM spokesperson Naila Kuhlmann says the original focus had been on public transit but given that most people lack adequate accurate information about bottled water and the dangers it can present, that was tacked on as an additional focus.
However, while the environmental goals are certainly important, WAM spokesperson Jessica Wang said the main goal of the summit is to “interest and motivate youth into making changes within the community.”
Kuhlmann added that “there is never really a youth movement toward actually changing anything and we wanted to have it come from them.”
High school classes were invited to attend the event and the feedback from all of those present will be used in the formation of action plans that WAM hopes many Saskatoon residents will implement.
One initiative WAM hopes to drum up support for which should attract the attention of high school students is a universal high school bus pass. It would be similar to the U-Pass that University of Saskatchewan undergraduates currently enjoy during the academic year.
“As for water issues,” Wang said, “we hope the students will leave the summit with a greater awareness — education is the first step in making a change.”
Information about the environmental impact of bottled water as well as what individuals can do about it was available at the summit.
Wang added that WAM had been working with transit and bottled water-related issues in the months leading up to the summit and that they “saw the summit as the perfect opportunity to involve the youth and the community in these initiatives.”
Eventually WAM would like to see more people opting for public transit over cars and spokesperson Kuhlmann mentioned a desire to see cleaner air.
“We used to have really clean air in Saskatoon and we’d like to have that again.”
In addition to involving youth and students in activism, WAM attempts to incorporate the artistic community whenever possible. This was the thinking behind the 2008 We Are Many festival, which incorporated several different types of art into the effort to achieve environmental change.
WAM is a collective and prides itself on this group mentality while at the same time stressing the ability of individuals to enact change. WAM encourages people to get active by reminding them that when a few individuals enlist a few more individuals into a cause, the number of people involved can quickly snowball and the group can easily become one with enough numbers to hold real influence.
U of S political studies professor David McGrane said that by focusing on two specific environmental issues, WAM increases its chances of affecting change.
McGrane said it’s difficult to figure out how much a group will be able to change things. He cautioned that a movement’s success depends greatly on its follow-up but added that “small groups can push government and society”¦ with a focused mandate they could well achieve their goals.”
WAM has previously been involved in the implementation of the Saskatoon-wide Eco-Pass, a cheaper bus pass available to Saskatoon residents, as well as in voting on Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design certification for co-op buildings at their most recent annual general meeting.