Camping for climate

How do you energize, educate and connect young climate action activists from around the world? You send them to camp together. And a University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) student was part of that perspective-changing event, thanks to funding from PICS.

Adam Folland was one of about 200 young international changemakers chosen to attend Camp 2030, a six-day “innovation lab” held Sept. 12 to 18.

The inaugural camp was hosted by UNITE 2030 — a US non-profit organization committed to ending poverty, inequality, injustice, and climate change by the year 2030 — for people 18 to 35 who are taking action to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A student in the Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries program at UNBC, Folland was one of thousands who applied, and he brought with him a history of community-based partnership-building and climate action.

PICS provided $1,000 to support Follard’s time at Camp 2030, through the Event Partnership Program.

Originally from Ontario, Folland was a driving force behind several climate and environmental initiatives at Fleming College, including establishing a partnership with a local art gallery to show environmental-based films through the Toronto International Film Festival, and developing a committee to make Fleming College a bird-friendly campus.

As a student member of the Wildlife Society, Folland also helped to establish funding and partnerships with local Indigenous schools to provide opportunities for young to engage with and learn about wildlife, nature, the earth and climate sciences.

Folland says he is always looking for ways to get more involved in climate action.

“This opportunity was a tremendous start,” he says. “To be able to connect with so many individuals from so many countries and regions across the world was invaluable.

“It will take all of us. The more unique voices and perspectives that are at the table to share their experience and knowledge, the better. The more we listen, the better we can do.”

Folland says he is keen to work collaboratively in the climate action space.

“The earth is everybody’s – birds, lizards, fish, insects, trees, mushrooms, and humans. We are all important individuals who deserve to participate in our environment.”

For the first five days, campers worked in teams at their venue in Adirondack Park National Historic Landmark to develop solutions which could advance a SDG. On the last day, teams travelled to New York City to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges.

“I only expected that I was going to meet a bunch of people from around the world,” he says. “And the first thing that hit me was a diversity of people that I had never experienced.”

More than 50 countries were represented at the camp, and Folland says the immersive experience was integral to the collaborative, solution-seeking tasks the teams undertook — a process that served to “shatter each other’s worldview.”

“People are very siloed,” he says. “Coming to Camp 2030 blew that up astronomically.”

Folland’s team consisted of people representing six countries and seven languages —including activists from Mexico, the US, UK, India and Australia. They chose Goal 13, Climate Action as their SDG.

His track decided to focus on safety in climate action; while there is little risk for many activists in countries such as Canada, climate activism can be dangerous — and often life-threatening — in other countries and for certain activists.

For example, according to the NGO Global Witness, 54 environmental and land activists were killed in Mexico in 2021.

For Folland and his track, this project had added significance: their team included a Mexican activist.

“Just the act of doing what she’s passionate about, she is at risk,” he says.

The team decided that their Goal 13 solution was to connect directly with local scientists, climate activists and Indigenous Peoples to share their knowledge, studies and experiences in a safe way.

“We would develop a global platform and app to enable the public to click on different regions to learn about the knowledge or studies being conducted there,” he says.

“This idea grew from Homero Gómez González and the El Rosario Butterfly Reserve in Mexico. Homero was killed two years ago for defending this sanctuary from being logged, as it was integral to the migration of the Monarch Butterfly.

“If Homero had the opportunity to share this information and garner support, perhaps his death could have been prevented. Now, we can only share his story and those of any others —living or past — and provide them the safe opportunity to teach and talk about their climate passion.”

Adam Folland (far right) and his team hard at work on their pitch.

Folland’s track presented to a team of judges who were experts in the environmental field. Ultimately, his team did not end up winning the final competition, but he left Camp 2030 inspired and grateful for the experience, and ready to work on next-level solutions.

“There is a lot of eco-anxiety, and it’s easy to shut yourself off and hide from it,” he says. “Regardless of how small or large you go, doing something is better than nothing.

“You should fall in love with the problem, not the solution… If we solve for the easiest part of the solution, we won’t get to the places we need to go.”