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2005 Research Grant Recipient - Alysia Garmulewicz

Champion for change
Standing amid an Antarctic penguin colony three years ago, Alysia Garmulewicz says she came to realize how humans are relatively “ insignificant in the big picture.” Then 15, she had travelled to the frozen continent as a winner of Canadian Geographic’s Polar Bound contest. The trip had a profound impact on her.

“The penguins were just going about their business, treating us like another piece of nature,” she says. “Antarctica just swept me away.”

A resident of New Denver, B.C., Garmulewicz turned what she learned on her trip into a passion. Upon her return, she toured schools and community groups to talk about Antarctica and climate change. “I had fantastic feedback from most of the adult organizations I spoke with, but I was incredibly frustrated by the lack of response from my peers.”

As a result, she came up with the idea of arranging a national conference to educate and motivate youth on climate-change issues. She finished high school last spring and has spent the past year organizing the Canadian Youth Climate Change Conference, to be held July 3-6 at Royal Roads University in Victoria. The event is targeting people between the ages of 15 and 20, some of whom will be offered financial aid to get to the conference through a $4,000 grant from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Photo: Students on Ice

So far, Garmulewicz has lined up an impressive roster of speakers, including Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, environmentalist and television host Severn Cullis-Suzuki and former federal environment minister David Anderson, whom Garmulewicz and a few fellow students had phoned from Antarctica to talk about Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (see “The Inside story,” CG Mar/Apr 2003).

With workshop leaders, participants will develop ways to help tackle the global problem in their own communities or even at the national level. “Climate change is an issue that requires unprecedented intergenerational connections,” says Garmulewicz. “Youth can’t be reinventing the wheel and ignoring what everyone else is saying.” She also hopes to set up a mentorship program to enable young people to consult with experts long after the conference is over.

The two winners of this year’s Polar Bound contest will be awarded a trip to the conference, followed by a two-week expedition to the Arctic in late July.

For more information about the conference, visit www.yc3.net, and for the Polar Bound contest, visit www.canadiangeographic.ca/polarbound.

— Monique Roy-Sole

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