Youth prominent at 2013 GETI Fest

A weekly column by Jack Emberly, a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist from Maple Ridge.

Youth is the trustee of prosperity – Benjamin Disraeli, British P.M., 1874.

On Sept. 1, GETI Fest, the Golden Ears Transition Initiative’s community festival, will showcase activities of young people that enrich Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

“Youth in our Community,” at Memorial Peace Park, celebrates youth contributions, and encourages more young people to help shape a self-reliant town less dependent on fossil fuels.

Kiersten Duncan, 19, already has a record of proactive community involvement. Duncan ran unsuccessfully in the last municipal election, but succeeded in projecting the passion and ideals of youth in our area.

At GETI Fest, she’ll be volunteer coordinator, a role she’s performed for Country Fest. Kiersten is a member of GETI’s recently formed youth coalition committee, a student focus on environmental and social goals.

“The committee is a chance for youth to get involved with GETI and with other youth,” says Kiersten. “Many young people have ideas that can positively impact the community, but don’t always have the support to make them possible. As an older youth in a mentorship role, I’m able to speak from my own experiences.”

Sean Okawa, a Grade 12 Thomas Haney secondary student, is a younger member the youth coalition. At GETI Fest, he’ll display an origami board (recycled paper) he made, showing animals thriving within an urban setting.

“I wanted to show eagles, black bears, birds and other animals living in harmony with towns and people,” says 14 year-old Sean, who constructed the origami himself after researching the process on the internet.

Advocating for the environment and sustainable community practice is not new for Sean. When he was in Grade 5 he entered a writing contest that GETI and I held for students. His winning story, Planet X, was a sequel to The Giant With Two Heads Who Hated Being Big, a tale I wrote to introduce kids to the role of fossil fuel consumption in climate change. Peak and Climo, my rampaging, two-headed giant with a bad temper, had a gluttonous appetite for unhealthy foods – especially beast crisps, produced in coal-burning factories and trucked across the land.

In Planet X, Sean’s sequel, PeakClimo began life as a big, but friendly one-headed fellow who fled his polluted world for Earth when it was still free of life-threatening green house gases.

Subsequently, poisonous air and water here, and a diet of too many beast crisps and other artificial foods caused him to mutate. It’s doing that to us, too. Just look around.

Sean, however, knew what to do. He connected PeakClimo with Gramps and Jake, two farmers who put him onto a diet of clean water and locally grown, pesticide-free vegetables like those at the farmer’s market. In time, Peak and Climo returned to their natural bodies with pink complexions and renewed purpose. They began to actively campaign for sustainable agriculture and responsible industry in the quiet valley town of Westville.

“The giant story inspired me to get involved in the transition town movement,” says Sean. “I wanted to tell about the importance of growing your own food, and that we all have to work together. Every small effort counts.”

Sean and Kiersten will be busy as bees on Saturday, but with luck you’ll see them buzzing around as flies in my environmental play, which will be performed again this year.

I Read It in the Fish and Flies News will be performed on the Main Stage.

Christian Cowley of the Ceed Centre is Sticky, a tiny stickleback – fish of ‘no economic value.’

Being demeaned and devalued is depressing. Sticky talks of leaving the North Alouette River, and swimming to sea with the chum smolts. This suicidal idea – he’s smaller and weaker than chum – is discouraged by Sticky’s pal, Pointy (Janet Amsden), and Dr. Bluefish (Craig Speirs), a stream ecologist who helps Sticky discover his key role in a stream ecosystem.

“Sticky, don’t go!” pleads his many supporters.

Will you add your voice to theirs on Saturday to encourage little Sticky, our mutual friend, to stay forever?

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

Maple Ridge News