* * *We invited Mike Ge to share with us what he’s been up to since participating in Get Outside Ontario 3 years ago* * *
WHAT DRIVES A YOUNG ADVOCATE
By Mike Ge
Three years ago when I was in Grade 8, a morning announcement about a youth nature leadership program caught my attention. I applied for Get Outside Ontario, a program hosted by Wildlands League to engage the younger population in real-world conservation issues. The program spanned the entire summer, with a youth summit in July and the task of hosting your own community event in mid-August.
As much as it was stressful, my favorite moment from that summer was planning my community event. I devoted hours each day to contacting sponsors and media, and to thinking through every last detail. To my surprise, the event turned out to be hugely successful, engaging over 30 youth in the community, and was featured in the local paper.
That’s how I began my journey with CPAWS Wildlands League.
The year after, I worked with Wildlands League on their Love the Rouge campaign to ensure that ecological integrity is a top priority in the National Urban Park mandate. This campaign enabled me to have the unique experience to present to a class of undergraduate and Master’s students at the Faculty of Forestry at U of T, and to several conservation NGO directors at Parks Canada’s Youth Engagement Symposium. These opportunities challenged me to rethink many issues and obstacles in environmental conservation and reconsider where I fit into the picture as a young, but determined, youth advocate.
I earned a unique and life-changing opportunity the following summer: an expedition to Northern Canada and Greenland with Students on Ice! During the expedition, we listened to academic and business leaders deliver powerful and intimate presentations on the ship; Inuit youth who recounted stories of how their families have changed; and passed by glaciers which had receded thousands of meters and were still melting as we walked across them. With the gracious support from my parents and several international organizations, this served as an ultimate motivation for why I am so passionate about conservation work.
This past summer, I came back to Wildlands League to give back to the organization that has supported me with my growth and endeavours for the past few years. I am currently producing a youth engagement video with Toby Sax, a talented video editor at Wildlands League, and this fall I will continue canvassing downtown at MEC Toronto for their boreal caribou project.
I think it’s important for youth like me to care about the environment and get involved with an advocacy organization like CPAWS Wildlands League because you begin to understand more of who you are. During the past few years in high school, I felt pressured to find out where my education would take me and how it could translate into a job. But now, I think that was less important than devoting the time to work with Wildlands League to find out my values and guiding principles that will help me lead an engaged and conscious lifestyle and also carry me forward in my career.