Photo: REaDY Summit 2016 focuses on hope and action

Richmond Earth Day speech contestants at city council chamber

By Winnie Hwo, Senior Public Engagement Specialist

Protecting the environment is a family affair, and there is nothing more telling than the excitement and pride students and their parents shared at the annual REaDY Summit speech contest. Typically, the speech contest takes place a month before the April 23 half-day event. This year's theme is "Change happens now; our future is rooted in our backyard."

"We need to save our planet, so when future generations grow up and become parents, their children will not have to face the problems we fear today," Abbas Bimji, a Grade 7 student from Water Lee Elementary, told the audience at the speech contest in a packed council chamber in early March. "We won't let our nightmares get to us. United, we can save our earth."

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For Ryan Liu, a Grade 9 student from McMath Secondary, waiting and procrastinating is no longer acceptable. "I want to make a change. I will make that change. There's a really big difference, you know? Wanting is just an empty way to trick yourselves into thinking you're doing a good thing... By not taking action, we are causing destruction. By standing by, we are letting the world pass us by... I know there are plenty of people just like you, like me, people who want to make the world a better place. Who want to see our Mother Nature smile again, laugh and dance again, to prosper and live on with a bright healthy future."

On Saturday, April 23, Abbas and Ryan will join peers from Metro Vancouver to inspire and encourage REaDY Summit participants to take action for environmental protection. Youth leaders joining the call for action include this year's keynote speakers, Jay Matsushiba and Kate Hodgson.

Jay Matsushiba, Kate Hodgson: youth leaders Photos source: REaDY Summit

Jay is a Grade 12 student from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver and co-chairs the Vancouver Youth Sustainability Network. For a long time, Jay found himself lost in the virtual world of make-believe. The self-professed video-gamer and Internet addict pulled himself from isolation by connecting with nature.
"My friend had organized a backpacking trip to hike in the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island... Together, this group of five teenagers were going to take on this adventure..."

For Jay, connecting with nature did more than getting him closer with his friends, it also helped him find hope. "We're not helpless, we not useless and we're not hopeless. We have the capability to make our environment and this world a better place... And if we cannot do it alone, together we will."

At 19, Kate Hodgson's path to environmental advocacy and action began long before most of her peers. Last year, the Globe and Mail picked Kate as one of 10 B.C. young people age 20 and under who are outstanding in various fields, ranging from arts to science to activism. The veteran environmental advocate and first-year UBC student has long been aware that human activity is a cause of climate change. She has tried to be part of the solution to the changing climate, biking everywhere, and living with her parents where renewable energy is the main source of household energy. But she didn't feel fully empowered until she became connected with like-minded people who began turning their fear and frustration into action. Today, Kate finds inspiration in collaborating with young people who care about the environment and draw strength from each other through climate actions like Divest UBC and student mobilization around the COP21 climate conference in Paris last year.

You can share the passion and conviction of young people like Kate and Jay on Saturday at REaDY Summit 2016. To register, visit

This is the fifth year the David Suzuki Foundation has partnered with the City of Richmond and school district to co-host the REaDY Summit. Apart from inspiring speeches, the half-day event also brings in green leaders from Metro Vancouver to host workshops and share green knowledge through exhibits and displays.

As a partner, we were proud to see the REaDY Summit win the 2015 Our Canada Project Award, and we are also inspired by the hard work city staff does to lower Richmond's greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent report to council, Richmond's emissions dropped by six per cent from 2007 to 2010. Despite a 14 per cent jump in population from 2007 to 2014, the city managed to hold its emissions increases to one per cent. There is a lot of work to be done, and the REaDY Summit is a good place to start.

REaDY Summit 2016 group photo

April 21, 2016

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