Storyteller, environmental scientist and social justice advocate from British Columbia, Canada

A climate advocate from a young age, Graham May was drawn to participate in SOI’s Arctic 2008 Expedition to witness first-hand the effects of climate change on the Arctic environment and the people who live there. In 2008, at 16 years-old, Graham embarked on a journey that would change his life and set him on a course dedicated to better understanding and advocating for a healthier and sustainable future.


The Expedition Experience

Graham was inspired to apply to Students on Ice to better understand the impacts of climate change on the land, biodiversity and people of the Arctic. On the frontlines of environmental, cultural and economic change, the Arctic is changing at an unprecedented rate and provides an unparalleled learning opportunity to better understand the effects of these changes not only on the Arctic, but on the entire planet. The Arctic, often referred to by SOI as “The Greatest Classroom on Earth” became an educational experience that forever changed Graham’s understanding of this vibrant region and inspired him to make a difference.

Realizing Goals & Ambitions

After his expedition, Graham moved from his home in British Columbia to New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast to study international relations and environmental studies at Mount Allison. Realizing how much flying between his home and his school was expanding his carbon footprint, he embarked on a journey to cycle from school to his home in the summer of 2012. During this three month trip, Graham and his fellow cyclists led workshops for 680 students and raised over $7,600 to support youth-led environmental projects. Thus GrassRoutes, Graham’s environmental non-profit, was born.

“Since SOI I did a lot more work around North America talking about climate change and the impacts of it. The stories that I experienced up north were usually the first ones that came to mind when talking about climate change and they were the ones that resonated strongest with southerners.”

"On expedition I was hiking with a botanist who was talking about the changes he’d seen during his time in the Arctic. Suddenly, he plucked a flower, frowned at it and then pressed it into a book. That flower had never been seen so far north before. More than any report ever could, that experience drove home the fact that climate change is real."

Making a Difference

Following his expedition, Graham dedicated himself to making a difference for the planet from the ground up. He is one of the founding members of the Youth Arctic Coalition, an independent global forum for youth to voice their opinions, make collaborative decisions and declarations, and work together to influence the course of Arctic governance.

Looking Ahead

In the summer of 2014, Graham set sail with the crew of the Students on Ice research vessel, the Arctic Tern I, where he conducted sociological research for his honours thesis in Inuit communities most undergrads wouldn’t dream of having access to. In the spring of 2015 he finished his undergrad and graduated from Mount Allison University. He plans to take a gap year to travel and learn a new language, while he deliberates between law school admission offers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Oxford.

“I think the Arctic really needs the help of young people right now. I think it is probably the most important place I could be working in and I am so grateful for Students on Ice introducing me to the Arctic. It has been a thread that flows through all of the work that I do, whether it is bike tours or policy organizations or writing my thesis or even deciding which university I was going to go to or what I was going to study. The Arctic is a common trend of something that I think is very important in the world and something that I think I can make a difference in.”

"I really believe that you are never going to fight to save something unless you know it. So one of my passions is talking to people about the Arctic. Getting them excited about how beautiful and magical and how fragile it is. Because that is the only way people are ever going to want to change their lifestyles to do good towards the Arctic and the people there."

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