“A country dies when it stops listening to its youth”

“A country dies when it stops listening to its youth”


In June 2020, after more than 30 years of environmental activism, Karel Mayrand resigned, leaving his post as executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation for Quebec and the Atlantic.

The most naive would believe that the activist had lost hope, was abandoning a cause cursed by an economic system that served the interests of a powerful few, consumed by impotence and resigned to sink with all of humanity in the abyss that disturbs. dig yourself.

“It is true that I was very tired. I had the feeling of carrying the world on my shoulders for twelve years, and taking only snail’s paces, confirms the main person involved, reached by phone. Obligation. I could no longer tell people that we must take action to avoid the worst, when we have already crossed all the red lines. I’m tired, but I haven’t lost hope. Young people are there, strong and united. »

When hundreds of thousands of people took part in the Great Climate March in Montreal in 2019, Karel Mayrand knew it was time to pass the torch to a louder and louder voice. “For the first time, we had a generation in front of us that did not know how to protect against the effects of climate change. By standing up, young people showed us that they were ready to create the world of tomorrow. »

It is to water this seed of hope that the activist agreed, with the program of the Ward, to write essays for the youth to pass on the tools and lessons he learned during his years of activism. In A letter to a young man an environmentalistKarel Mayrand provides readers with arguments and ways to combat environmental apathy and concern, take action and fight for fundamental change in society.

“I encourage young people to be ambitious and radical in their values. Quantity is no longer enough to complete the deep, systemic changes needed to turn the tide. It is absolutely necessary to aim for the moon, otherwise we will not succeed. »

A beautiful and green world

In the first chapters, the ecologist explains why technological and economic solutions – electrification of transport, investments in renewable energy, carbon taxes – are no longer sufficient to achieve the goal set by the Paris Agreement, that is, to reduce global warming by 1.5 °C compared to the industrial age. Henceforth, change must be of a political and social nature.

“It was the young people who made me realize the importance of the intersection in the debate. When we dig into the roots of what is not working in the world, we always go back to colonialism, which allowed a few to monopolize territory and resources to enrich themselves. To justify this, we have created ideological models in which men and women are not equal to each other, and in which indigenous and marginalized people are denied their rights. This infrastructure also explains the inaction of our governments on climate change. Everything is connected. From the moment we accept that man dominates nature and other living things, we also accept that man can dominate another. »

So Karel Mayrand calls on young people to change the system by using the power structures they have. “You have to speak up, show up and, above all, make your voice heard during elections. At the moment, those aged 18-34 vote half as much as those aged 70 and over. It is certain that political parties are not interested in them . On the contrary, companies that sell running shoes and beauty products focus on their interests. Where young people exercise their power, companies and elected officials must change. »

Influence the elders

In his essay, the activist lays out several pitfalls to avoid when choosing to volunteer for a cause. Among these, social networks, which contribute to indifference and the illusion of commitment. “We are not going anywhere with like “, he recalls. Not to mention the challenges posed by trolls and misinformation that abound on these platforms.

In addition to giving them tools to detect fake news, know how to identify reliable sources and reduce confirmation bias, he reminds us that the main goal is not to change the minds of conspiracy theorists or libertarians. “Considering the extremists, we give them legitimacy. The real fight is to convince the 80 percent of people who are sane, who are aware that there is a problem, and show them that the sacrifices they will have to make will enable them to have a better life. »

Faced with the enormity of the task, it is also important not to accept defeat, not to mention losing ground in front of those who may call us loyal. “Don’t doubt that you can do it,” he insists on the phone. If our institutions are not capable of responding to emergencies, they must be changed. We cannot change the laws that govern the biosphere, but we can change human invention. It has been done in the past. The rioters turned society upside down. They established education and health systems for all, nationalized electricity, and overthrew the power of the Church. They demanded a just society and gave themselves the means to achieve it. »

The real battle is to convince the 80 percent of people who are sane, who are aware that there is a problem, and show them that the sacrifices they will have to make will enable them to have a better life.

For the older, Karel Mayrand asks the question: will you have the courage to be partners, instead of opponents of your children? “A country dies when it stops listening to its youth. Right now, I am very afraid of Quebec. Who led the Quiet Revolution? Young people, who gave their support to elected leaders with vision. Together, we can move mountains. »

A letter to a young ecologist

Karel Mayrand, Kata, Montreal, 2022, 141 pages

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