As the Youth Leaders Summit on climate change came to a close Friday in Yellowknife, the eight young attendees left feeling educated, informed and inspired.

The summit, organized by Ecology North and the Pembina Institute, began Aug. 24 and ran all week. This is the first time the summit has travelled, visiting Fort Providence, Enterprise, Behchoko, Hay River and Kikisa. Attendees heard how different communities are affected by climate change.

"We got to see the traditional ecological perspective, and then we also got to see the scientific perspective," said participant Alex James.

"Sometimes, they don't always go together, but if you can marry them, it's perfect."

Elders from the communities told the summit they're seeing a decrease in population of various species, as well as an increased amount of new species, lower water levels, more wildfires and even some animals moving closer to communities due to the scorching blazes.

In short, everything they heard points to climate change.

"We usually think of that, 'eyes on the north,' because we're experiencing changes really rapidly and warming at two and a half times the rate of the rest of the world," said another participant, Aletta Leitch. She said living in the North makes it easier to take quick action to tackle climate change. 

"I think with the small population we have, it's more imaginable for me to implement changes here than in a city with a couple million or a billion people."

4 declarations from summit

The members of the summit wrote four declarations at the end of their trip:

  • Northern communities need to develop and strengthen local agriculture and hunting to improve food security in the North.
  • Climate change education should be prominent in school curriculums and communities should include climate change education in their on-the-land programs.
  • Northerners must recognize that they have significant energy needs, but those needs can be through renewable energy. We urge all individuals to reduce their impact on the planet.
  • Territorial governments have an opportunity to take a leadership role in responding to climate change.

"We can be a role model for the rest of the world," Leitch said.

Participants said it was also important to meet with like-minded people.

"It's easier to have hope when you find people who have the same goal," James said.