I had the privilege of meeting Dr. David Suzuki this week. He is, perhaps, the image of the environmental movement in Canada. He was doing a Q&A after the film “The Age of Stupid” at a Hamilton high school. I took the opportunity to buy one of his books, which he graciously signed. It gave me a minute or so face to face with the man himself!
Some might be satisfied to get an autograph, snap a photo, and then walk away giddy-faced, but not me. I prefer to channel my giddy-faced energy into conversation!
Think about it! It’s not every day you get the opportunity to chit chat with David Suzuki. So the big question – what to say? The weather and the local sports team weren’t going to cut it this time.
I did the best I could to muster up the courage to talk to him. “I’m a speaker,” I told him, “and I have the amazing opportunity to speak to youth across North America. What’s the most significant thing you’ve learned about effectively engaging youth to take action for positive social change?”
Suzuki speaks quickly and with a certain intensity; he doesn’t say anything without meaning it. “I always tell youth, you need to recruit the two most important people in your life:…” He paused, perhaps for emphasis, perhaps to see if I could complete his sentence for him. I kept my mouth shut. If I had wanted to hear MY answer, I needn’t have bothered asking Dr. Suzuki. “…Mom and Dad.”
“If you can’t get those two people on your side, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone of anything. They’re supposed to be your biggest supporters!” I agreed with him, though I knew how hard it can be in practice. “We don’t have time to wait around until all the youth activists get old enough to vote.” Suzuki was generally quite political, and very critical of Prime Minister Harper for openly ignoring international law (Kyoto) and refusing to have intelligent debate about carbon tax proposals or other important environmental issues. “Youth need to recruit people to vote NOW on behalf of their interests – the interests of future generations!”
The Q&A was great, and he said a few surprising things. “We shouldn’t even HAVE a Green Party!” You could feel the room’s eyebrows collectively rise. “The environment should be a priority of EVERY political party.” “Ahh..” The room breathed a sigh of understanding. “It’s ridiculous that we need a whole party to shout these basic ideas at us. Eventually, we should be smarter than that, but for now, it seems to be necessary.”
Ouch. Suzuki, one. Society, zero.
I thought about a few things that night:
1. Making change is easier if you’re on a team – join up with people who can help your message be heard. The Green Party brings together individuals who want environmental issues on the table. Young people can recruit their parents to stand up for their long-term interests. A high school can bring in a speaker like David Suzuki to try to get a message out into a community. It’s certainly better than shouting to an empty room. With whom can YOU connect to better achieve your goals?
2. Celebrities are people too. Even David Suzuki. Standing in line for my book signing, I was nervous that the almighty Suzuki wouldn’t even acknowledge my lowly presence. I needn’t have been concerned. He’s accomplished a lot, for sure. But he’s a person too, and was happy to chat for a moment. Who would make YOU nervous?
3. Always have a question ready. As they say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so be prepared. What would you like to know? What information would move you forward towards your goals? What conversations do YOU feel are important? Who knows when you might get lucky and step into an elevator with David Suzuki, Prime Minister Harper, or an everyday friend who just might be able to help you out? You’ll only have a minute. What will YOU say?
Joel gets a moment to speak with Canadian Environmentalist David Suzuki!
Take particular note of Joel's giddy-face.
November 24, 2009
"The reason that these doomsday movies are produced at all, the reason to be hopeful, is that it’s not too late! We don’t have a lot of time, but we do have enough time."
Remember talk of that youth global citizenship project?
We’re doing it!
What IS The Beanstalk Project?
It's more of a mission than a specific thing, really. It's a social entrepreneurship initiative, engaging young people to create social change and become global leaders. At weekend-long launch events across Canada, students have a chance to develop and refine community project ideas, build essential skills, and connect with mentors to ensure their ideas become actions.
Where will these Launches be?
Hamilton (Feb 2010) Calgary (Mar 2010) Ottawa (Fall 2010) with potential for a few more locations too! Read More...
I need YOUR help!
If you’re ateacher, I need your help to find entrepreneurial high school students. I’m hoping to get 100 students from at least 25 different high schools for each launch.
Joel Hilchey is the founder of The Beanstalk Project, a social entrepreneurship initiative that engages students to create social change and become global leaders. He speaks at schools and events across North America, inspiring character by juggling, storytelling, and playing with mousetraps.