TEDxSelkirkCollege Countdown events highlights local climate solutions

Selkirk College students hosted their third annual TEDx Countdown event on November 6 to continue the brainstorming of ideas for solving climate change-related issues.

The virtual event drew nearly 100 participants to watch a variety of local speakers give Zoom presentations on topics ranging from climate change anxiety to car battery recycling.

TEDx events are geared toward bringing together a diversity of voices in a community-driven format and the Countdown series is specifically aiming to "amplify and demonstrate climate solutions."

Students from Selkirk College led the event with support from the West Kootenay Climate Hub. Organizers Tia Currie, a nursing student, and Marie-Luise Flurey, a rural pre-med student, helped introduce the topics. They defined the goal as cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 for the “race to a zero-carbon world.”

The first speakers focused on anxiety as Canada deals with numerous weather-related crises. Rural Health pre-med student Kaitlyn Taburiaux detailed her studies showing widespread climate anxiety among youth. Her surveys show almost 72% of respondents feeling anxiety with others expressing feelings of powerlessness.

Sarah West, an art therapist, went on to discuss how she is helping people find their own personal resiliency to deal with these feelings and what she termed “ecological grief.”

Other presenters highlighted local projects and the work they are doing in the region to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Olga and Liza Hallborg, a mother and daughter team, talked about their work with the Butterflyway Ranger program. This project was started by the David Suzuki Foundation to create pollinator pathways for bees and butterflies in populated areas.

Two members of the Wildsight Youth Climate Corps then shared their experiences working on wildfire risk reduction projects. Melissa Lavery is the coordinator for the West Kootenay team, while Alex Laffelaar participated in 2020 before moving on to work as a climate action assistant for RDCK. They both promoted the program as a way to take concrete action fighting the effects of climate change.

Bruno-Charles Busseau, a researcher working at Selkirk College, explained how he is using laser technology called LiDAR to map areas within the wildland-urban interface – places where people have built homes in zones that could face wildfires. With LiDAR, a handheld gun and drones are used to map the ground, the trees, the branches and even woody debris built up on the forest floor.

Some presenters focused on their hopes and goals for the future. Solita Work of the West Kootenay Cycling Coalition advocated for more “active transportation” and less driving.

For those still driving cars, the shift to electric vehicles means many more batteries are needed. Presenter Jacomien van Tonder of Trail's Metal Tech Alley would like to see the West Kootenays become a hub for the production of these batteries. Ideally, this involves a “circular economy” with metals smelted by Teck, recycled locally by places such as KC recycling and then re-smelted by Teck.

The event wrapped up with Joelle Burnie of the Friends of Kootenay Lake, talking about her organization’s efforts toward wetland restoration. She said getting together to do these hands-on jobs can decrease the anxiety so many are feeling. “This is also a really great way to get involved in your community,” she said.

Mark Page, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice