Campus Ecosystems: KPU student surveying climate change impacts on youth

Geography student Sydney Wong is doing her Arts Practicum through the Fraser Basin Council Youth Program

Sydney Wong, president of Kwantlen Geographers. (Kyler Emerson)

Sydney Wong, president of Kwantlen Geographers. (Kyler Emerson)

Fourth-year Kwantlen Polytechnic University geography student and club president of the Kwantlen Geographers, Sydney Wong, is conducting a research survey through her Arts Practicum with the Fraser Basin Council’s (FBC) Youth Program. 

The FBC is a non-profit charitable society dedicated to improving sustainability across British Columbia by bringing people together and collaborating with federal, provincial, and local governments, First Nation communities, and organizations in the public and private sectors. Their Youth Program was established in 2006, and focuses on engaging young people in sustainability initiatives. 

Through her practicum, Wong is surveying youth between the ages of 16 and 30 who have or are currently facing barriers in life to provide their opinions on how climate change is affecting them, and how they define sustainability. 

“Some of us grew up with less compared to our peers, had issues following the educational system with no guidance, or had to work harder at a younger age, and my intention is to focus on those who relate to these obstacles,” Wong says. 

She says the reason she’s focusing on this particular age range is because she wanted to provide a voice to those who may not think or feel their opinions matter, especially in regards to topics like climate change and sustainability. 

“I feel like society, the governmental system, and education system always provide voices to those they deem as studious civilians, but they forget about the others,” Wong says. “My goal is to change that.”

“I feel like there’s a disconnect between the two ideologies. Why is there a group of civilians who are more greatly affected by climate change who [don’t completely] understand as much as about sustainability, [compared] to those who grew up more privileged?” 

Wong says she wants to look beyond people learning to recycle and use disposable products. She wants to explore the experiences of youth who are considered to be lower income or at risk. 

“I feel like society may look at [youth] and think they don’t care about the environment or climate change or sustainability, but I feel like it’s deeper than that. There’s a reason why they may not care as much … they weren’t exposed to the concept early on. I feel like it’s almost a privilege to [talk about] climate change.” 

“They have other things that they have to deal with day-to-day to ensure they live another day. Climate change is not the first thing on their list,” she says. 

A report titled Damage Control: Reducing the costs of climate impacts in Canada released by the Canadian Climate Institute found that housing will become less affordable as “economic growth slows, governments are forced to raise taxes to pay for climate disasters, job losses increase, and goods become more costly because supply chains are disrupted.” 

The report refers to the broken window fallacy, which describes the distorting effect that spending to repair damaged infrastructure can have on measures of the economic costs of climate damages. As a result, the impacts of climate change will “lower individual wealth as income falls and is redirected to fix what gets prematurely broken.” 

“All households will be worse off in both low-and and high-emissions scenarios, with low-income households the most affected,” according to the report

“I grew up in a lower income household, so I resonate with my focus group. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to interview people [about this],” Wong says. “I want to encourage this group of youth to speak up about these types of things.” 

The survey closes on Nov. 25 and Wong will showcase her findings on Dec. 2.