Monday, July 11, 2016

Fighting Climate Change

Steve S.J. Lee is a Climate Change and Gender Equality Activist. All set to take on a massive drive comprising five national tours with his 3% Project, Steve's story is filled with inspiring and interesting take homes. 

I am a climate change activist, a policy advocate to the UN and a global speaker. I am also the Executive Director of the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship and the founder of PassionExplorer, empowering the final generation that can solve climate change. I've had the opportunity to represent the Canadian Youth on issues of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Youth Empowerment.

I was personally trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader and have been scientifically trained in Physiology and Human Biology at the University of Toronto. I was a partner with RevIT2 Solutions, a market research consulting form for private investing firms. I am also the CEO of Steve's Guidebook, a publishing company for university-level calculus and biology study guides.

I came to Canada in second semester grade 9 and of course I didn't have any friends at the time and this guy came up to me and asked if I would want to join a competition for UNICEF to go to the G8 Summit and I thought, "Oh I don't have any friends!" and this guy was a very smart guy, so I wanted to hang out with him. So I agreed to join the project and one thing led to another, I represented the Canadian Youth at the G8 Summit back in 2009. One of the topics that were discussed at the time was climate change. I came back from the Summit being more aware of the understanding of the reality of climate crisis, how it's such an urgent issue and very complex issue. I did more research, I learned more about it and the more I learned about it I had this urge to really share that with my friends because they should know about this as well.

I started going to elementary schools and high schools, sharing about what it is that I know about climate change, and my experience through UNICEF at the G8 Summit. Then that experience opened more doors for me in policy advocacy and doing more political engagement.

So few years fast forward in 2012, there was a Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development and it was held at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I went there thinking, oh you know, I get to fly to another country, how cool is that! I saw this huge presence of civil society of NGOs, activists, and local volunteers who were there demanding action for climate change and for sustainable future. That's where I understood that I've been flying around doing all kinds of policy work because it was self-glorifying not because it was really the best thing that I could contribute to solving the problem.
I remember sitting at the airport coming back to Canada, crying in the airport really reflecting what is it that I'm really contributing to solve this issue and wondering what the best thing I could do here and the best thing was that I enjoyed engaging my friends on the issue. I began talking to my friends in high schools and universities, and letting them know the reality of climate change, and how we can together solve the issue effectively in the local ground because the real change happens from person to person just like you and me talking right now from families from communities and that's where real change happens and that's what I was missing out on.

I started my activism in gender equality when my mentor, Ravi Karkara, Senior Advisor to Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, challenged me to look at how climate change and gender equality intersects. You don't understand how dark it is until you walk into it. That was the case with gender equality for me. I never knew how prevalent violence against women and girls were. You hear about it, but until you start engaging in conversations with people about it, it's very easy to think it's some women overreacting and men have nothing to do with it. Engaging young men and boys to uproot the toxic masculinity from our culture is essential to achieving gender equality. I made gender equality the priority of my activism after climate change. I was an organizing partner for the first-ever Youth CSW Forum by UN Women in March and co-chair of its declaration drafting committee. I'm also a member of UN Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development's Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality and its taskforce on Young Men in Gender Equality. 

I founded the 3% Project recently, which mobilizes 1,000,000 Canadian youth through 5 national tours across 400 towns in 2 years. 1 million young Canadians - that's 3% of Canada, will be educated and empowered to solve climate change in their local communities. The result will be a nation-wide conviction that climate change is happening right now, that is mainly caused by human activities, and that we are the final generation with the opportunity to solve Climate Change. I would love to have your support on this project, and here's how you can help.

Climate change affects women and girls disproportionately more than men and boys. Women are underrepresented in decision-making process on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women and girls die more during disasters. Emergency preparation programs are designed by men for men. Climate change increases the rate of gender-based violence. Climate change worsens agricultural outcomes that are worked by women. Girls walk longer under hotter sun to collect receding source of water while their brothers go to school. I could go on and on. If you care about climate change, you have to care about gender equality, and vice versa. Climate change is a women issue; it's a human issue.

In terms of challenges, I find three things a bit daunting: Loneliness, Burning out and Financial instability. In our local communities of action, there is more indifference than support. But being connected to youth leaders from around the world and listening to their work inspires me to keep moving forward. We're one big human family! Stories of youth leaders from around the world always keep me going. Knowing that we are working together to achieve the same goals really inspires me.