By Winnie Hwo, Public Engagement Specialist

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these two from the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit on April 26 tell a story of how much young and old alike love the environment, and especially the Fraser River, which was a focus of the summit.


David Suzuki, who was the keynote speaker, hit a home run with an audience that included young, elderly, diverse, traditional, "green" and those who are well on their way to being green. At the end of the speech and student dialogue, about 750 participants shared in the sentiment that, "Yes, we are the Fraser and we are one."

Suzuki's half-hour speech focused on how we are all connected with each other and nature. He told the audience we are the air, water and earth. If we mistreat any of these elements, we are ultimately hurting ourselves and our loved ones. Suzuki's most powerful message was aimed at parents in the audience: If you love your children, you must vote and you must vote for a healthy environment.


Suzuki's message clearly made an impact on audience members.

Richmond's city staff sent this message: "It was helpful and painfully true to be reminded that the experiences we had in our childhood cannot be repeated with our own children. These simple concepts stick for adults. He also did an excellent job framing the issues so that younger generations would understand."

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From Richmond school district came these comments: "One of the most important things that students can do is to encourage their parents to consider the importance of the environment when they VOTE. Kids are looking for practical ways to get involved and this is one of the important things they can do but no one really ever talks about."

"David emphasized how parents need to be thinking of their kids' futures when they vote because the kids can't vote themselves but the decisions being made now will have a huge impact on their futures."

From a parent: "Personally, I know my family really enjoyed what he [David] had to say. My youngest had just done a project on Rick Hansen — so she perked up when he talked about the sturgeon and my oldest enjoyed how everyone was so engaged." (Rick Hansen founded the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society.)

From a teacher: "Dr. Suzuki's speech was very powerful. He provided lots of wonderful examples to help children (and adults) understand how we are all connected and actually part of our planet. He empowered students to involve their parents and help to bring about positive changes through enlisting the support of their parents. I liked that he connected to children on their level and provided the very important 'yuck' factor — the air he breathes out of his nose very quickly goes up our noses! It was a speech that touched on many different areas but left the listener feeling hopeful to take action rather than overwhelmed."

From one of our event sponsors, Nature's Path: "The message of global unity feels more important this year than ever before, and the youth in Richmond, B.C., agree. David Suzuki's message, always based in the relationships between all living things, felt especially poignant in light of the event's theme. He encouraged the audience to think about everything we share, right down to the air we breathe, causing at least one member of the team to joke 'I'm breathing the same air as David Suzuki!'"

This year's REaDY Summit also managed to set a few firsts.

With the help of the David Suzuki Foundation's Queen of Green, Lindsay Coulter, REaDY helped connect participants with Electro-Recycle and LightRecycle to collect household items that could end up in the wrong place.


Spent light bulbs and electrical appliances collected at REaDY Summit 2014

With the help of Cisco Systems, we also managed, for the first time, to provide a weblink of David Suzuki's speech to two remote sites: Kwantlen University's Surrey Campus and the Fraser River Discovery Centre in New Westminster.

The REaDY Summit Twitter site got 2,314 views during the event. Participants also broke the 76 per cent waste-diversion target by a huge margin. The result was 97 per cent waste diversion with plastic and waste recycling.


David Suzuki, Peter Robinson, Richmond City Councillor Chak Au and Richmond Green Ambassadors.

Thank you to our partners in Richmond: the City's sustainability and communications team, school district staff and teachers, Shane Pointe and the Musqueam First Nation. Thanks also to our sponsors: VanCity, Harvest Power, Nature's Path, Cisco Systems and Long and McQuade; our workshop presenters, David Suzuki Foundation staff and volunteers; and most of all, our Suzuki Elders, Diana Ellis and Penny Wilson, for making this year's REaDY Summit such a memorable event.

If you were there last Saturday, feel free to drop us a note at the comments section. If you weren't able to join us, here is the link to the morning's event.

May 2, 2014

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