By William Sosinsky June 20th 2016
Steven Lee is on a mission. Unlike other 23 year olds who spend their time going out with friends or starting a new job, Steven is setting out to change the minds and attitudes of his countrymen about climate change. Starting in the summer of 2016 he will embark on a two year journey to convince young people throughout his home country of Canada that climate change is real, and that they better start paying attention before it is too late. This first-of-its-kind effort has the advisory and logistical support of former Nobel Prize winners, a top UN official, and world-renowned climatologists and sustainability leaders.
In what he is dubbing the “3% Project” Steven will be visiting high schools, colleges, and civic centers throughout Canada. His primary goal is to raise awareness and convince 20% of his disbelieving generation that human beings are the primary cause for the recent changes in the Earth’s weather. The fact is that although 79% of Canadians believe the earth is warming, only 44% believe it’s mainly due to human activities. This dichotomy is far greater than that of their American neighbors to the south by nearly three times. What’s more, Canadians are consistently ranked among the top ten emitters of global greenhouse gases per capita and among the world’s worst environmental protectors.
Yet there is still the great misconception among Canadians that they are actually wonderful stewards of their natural environment. Steven knows that unless these perceptions change and soon there is little chance that anyone will be taking the necessary steps to reverse the country’s current activities which threatens us all. We are in fact as Mr. Lee points out, “The last generation that can solve this looming catastrophe.”
Since 16 years of age Steven has been an environmental activist. Working with several United Nations agencies, private sector organizations, and governmental institutions Steven has engaged with youth from over 190 countries on the subject of climate change. As a young man he was personally trained by former US Vice President Al Gore. He has subsequently trained thousands of Canadian youth in high schools and universities by way of his nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship.
The issue is fairly simple. Although young people these days are hearing more and more about climate change than any previous generation, Canadian youth are confused and disengaged. The continuing arguments as to whether climate change is real and to what extent human beings are impacting global weather patterns have undermined their active participation as contributing solution providers and environmental advocates. Recent data showing sea level rise, glacial retreat, melting of global ice pacts, an increase in severe weather events, and rising global temperatures  have done little to encourage changes in behavior. Additionally, those youth that actually believe human activity is the cause for these changes see very little being done to counteract their causes. As a result they ultimately fall into a state of hopelessness when contemplating their future and thus fail to take action. It is for these very reasons Steven Lee is setting out on this epic journey. His hope is to engage Canadian youth and educate them on the options that we still have left in order to avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. Those actions however, and the hope that we can still impact our future in a positive way will only be possible if we endeavor to act together with focus and purpose.
The reality is most people are blissfully unaware of what the short and long term consequences of climate change are going to mean to our global society. Computer models are predicting everything from the permanent loss and destruction of our oceans due to rising temperatures and acidification to a complete collapse of our food chain resulting in an unimaginable loss of life, bio-diversity, and human suffering. Mr. Lee is working on behalf of his foundation and other Organizations such as Energime University  to empower people with the knowledge and skills necessary to become active participants in this unprecedented collaborative global response. The hope is to make people everywhere aware that the technologies, science, and expertise necessary to reverse our damaging impact on the environment already exist. In this way they can get involved individually, or with the groups and organizations actively working to turn things around. It is just a matter of getting everyone on the same page.
The old argument that environmental stewardship and economic development and expansion are in conflict with one another is no longer valid. New businesses and entrepreneurial efforts geared towards resource management and environmental improvement are blossoming throughout the world. This confluence of human ingenuity along with a desperate need for action has created an unprecedented opportunity for our global population to finally come together in common cause focused on a common challenge. Steven Lee is out to encourage his countryman that the time to act is upon us. There is hope and reason for optimism just as long as we just decide that we need to actively work together in correcting that which has gone so terribly wrong.
It all starts with taking a single step. For Steve Lee, that step will take him on a two year journey to capture the hearts and minds of his countryman. We can only hope they are listening.