CAC Post-Retreat Blog: Aiden Cyr

“The Climate Action Cohort brought together, 10 total strangers and in five days created a community for passionate young leaders dedicated to making a difference in the environment”

Hi, my name is Aiden Cyr and I am first off, a big brother, a Metis boy from the prairies who grew up in Ottawa and a public policy student in Montreal. I am proud to be a 2019 Climate Action Cohort Member.

I didn’t know what to expect when I applied for the Climate Action Cohort but given my previous wonderful experience with Students on Ice I knew chances were high it was going to be something amazing. I was right. I was first given this impression when I met my group members at the Ottawa International Airport. Everyone seemed open-minded, intelligent and I found it incredible how young people who live so many thousands of kilometers apart can share so many things in common.  Unsurprisingly, everyone bonded over issues surrounding climate change and the environment. Information sharing, story-telling and laughs were commonplace on the bus ride from Ottawa to Harris lodge. It felt as though a sense of community existed even before we arrived at the location of the spring retreat.

            The lodge was fantastic, it felt like a cabin retreat but had all the comforting amenities of a home. Some of the best moments of the week would be spent around the fires and food. Musk Ox Stew, homemade bannock and delicious chili fuelled the cohort as the days were jampacked with activities, orientations and exercises. The cohort would organically take on the name “coheart” keeping with the amical spirit and the good intentions of all participants to make a difference in their communities and country.

I really enjoyed how the “Coheart” took the time to develop its own community code, a process that was collaborative and consensus based. This code designed to guide the nature of the project, was inclusive and created a sense of accountability and fairness for the “Coheart.” At the retreat, I learned a great deal about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S). One of my favourite activities had each participant take the time to read, reflect and choose which of the 17 global goals and their descriptions they most related with. Or in other words, which SDG’s did each participant feel best suited to respond to. I was surprised to learn that SDG#16 which speaks about Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions was the one I gravitated toward. This definitely impacted how I thought about the community project I wanted to lead. I knew for it to resonate with me, a policy student it would have to do with engaging pre-existing systems and bringing climate-action and Indigenous youth voices forward as catalysts for change. 

            The program for the five days was thought-provoking, informative and challenging. The pressure to come up with a “new” project to launch in your community concerning climate action for a young person is daunting. Workshops led by Youth Climate Lab and Students on Ice helped the group map out their own networks, brainstorm ideas and manage expectations. Personally, a lot of my learning came from informal discussions. I felt like while the workshops, activities and exercises focused conversations and prepared the group for what to expect at COP25, it was individual conversations with my peers and staff that propelled me to leave the week with an understanding of what my project could look like. These moments happened around the fire and dinner table, never underestimate the power of food and a good fire!

            One of my biggest lessons learned was that, climate action looks, feels and means something completely different to everyone. I feel like the power to bring together youth across from across the country, give them agency to make change and a sense of community is how the CAC will bring about lasting change. I am so incredibly excited to continue to work with my “Coheart” members on the climate project and other projects that are changing lives in Canadian communities.

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