CAC Post-Retreat Blog: Shakti Ramkumar

To be honest, after applying for the Climate Action Cohort, I completely put it out of my mind. I was in the final stretch of my degree at UBC, and there was a lot going on, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It didn’t really sink in until I was on a plane to Ottawa just a few days after my (final) final exam. Our few days at Harris Farms in Ottawa was so incredible, because of the people I got to spend it with. I have worked in other groups on sustainability/climate initiatives before, but I think there are a few things that make the Climate Action Cohort really unique. Having such a small group of just ten people, knowing that everyone has committed to be part of this for two whole years, that we come from all across Canada and that we all share a Students On Ice experience, made this a particularly special group to be a part of.

From early morning pre-breakfast conversations to solo journaling time to nights around the campfire, I appreciated having a fair amount of unstructured time to get to know the rest of the Cohort, and to learn about their perspectives on climate change, politics, and a whole lot of other issues.

One thing I took away from the week was the importance of thinking through problems really carefully before jumping into offering a solution, asking questions like: What are the actual root causes? How will different solutions affect different people? Who has been contributing to creating or solving this problem over time? From listening to my peers’ stories about how climate change has or will affect their communities, it reminded me that diving deeply into the issue first is necessary to get to just and equitable solutions that actually tackle a root cause, instead of just a short-term gain. This is important for climate change in particular, because the climate crisis is about so much more than carbon emissions in the atmosphere. We talked about how we are also facing a simultaneous ecological crisis, and the far reaching social and economic impacts of this.

Another activity I really enjoyed doing was creating our personal ecosystem maps, and then forming a collective one. Identifying which communities and organizations I am connected with, and specifically the people I have been connected with over the years, was a valuable exercise. For me, it made me realize that I have a strong student network at UBC that has actually been a big source of learning over the course of the past few years, all from working on initiatives outside of our actual schoolwork. The exercise also helped me see that there are several people and organizations who have been valuable mentors at key points in my last few years that I would like to reconnect with to see how I can help this time. I’m starting to think of mentorship and network building as more of a two-way process rather than just thinking “what can this person teach me?”, so drawing out the ecosystem map was a good way for me to see where I’ve received guidance or support, and where I’ve equally given guidance or support.

I’m so excited and grateful to continue learning and growing with the team as we prepare for COP, and to begin my own climate action project!

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