In May of 2015, forty Youth Delegates,18-30 years of age, gathered at the Ontario Biodiversity Summit. The goal was to create a Youth Declaration for Biodiversity. Over three days of seminars, workshops, and discussion, a declaration was prepared by the participants outlining the youth perspective on biodiversity; why we value it, and what we will do to protect it. The finalized declaration was presented at the closing ceremonies of the Summit. In it, we requested to have a youth representative on the Ontario Biodiversity Council (OBC) to represent young people’s investment in the protection of Ontario’s biodiversity. We also pledged to create a network to help young people in Ontario to become leaders in the field of biodiversity. The chair of this network would be the youth representative on the OBC.
Following the Summit, many Youth Delegates have contributed to the formation of the network described in our declaration. We started meeting in the fall and voted for a chair, coordinator, and board members. Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity (ELB) was created in November with the following Mission Statement:
“The purpose of the Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity is to encourage youth, within the Province of Ontario, to engage in the promotion of Ontario’s biodiversity and the strategic goals of the 2011 Ontario Biodiversity Strategy in conjunction with the Ontario Biodiversity Council. ELB connects emerging leaders in the field of biodiversity and empowers them by bringing their voice directly to the Ontario Biodiversity Council.”
Although ELB is in the early development stages, the board and members are hard at work to make sure the network fulfills its goals. Our chair, Thomas McAuley-Biasi, has attended one OBC meeting to introduce our network and explain how we, as youth, plan to address the biodiversity goals. As the OBC continues to address the problem of Ontario’s disappearing biodiversity, ELB is excited about the role young people can play both within and outside of Council. In the next four years, Ontario’s youth will play a crucial role leading up to the release of the 2020 State of Ontario’s Biodiversity Report.
ELB plans to attend events in 2016 to gain exposure including the North American and Ontario Envirothons. We are building a social media presence through Facebook (Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity), and Twitter (@el4biodiversity), and are in the process of developing a website. ELB members actively post opportunities for training, volunteering, work, and co-op experience through our Facebook page in an effort to connect our members with a chance to contribute to biodiversity initiatives, and improve themselves as professionals in the field.
The goal of the ELB is to help young people become leaders in biodiversity, and bring their perspectives and values to the OBC. An important aspect of helping young leaders is providing avenues for career growth and development. To this end we will provide opportunities for members to gain a variety of skills and experiences through events, conferences, mentorship opportunities, and leadership opportunities by participating in the various network working groups. Big things are coming for ELB.
If you are interested in having ELB participate in an event as an exhibitor, speaker, volunteer coordinators/help, please contact us at email@example.com.
Article contributed by Thomas McAuley-Biasi, Chair, Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity