As part of a series highlighting the work of young people in addressing the climate crisis, writer Patricia Lane interviews student Brennan Strandberg-Salmon, who heads a team of young climate champions.

Brennan Strandberg-Salmon

Interested in a career in the low-carbon economy, but not sure what steps to take? Brennan Strandberg-Salmon has you covered.

Brennan Strandberg-Salmon is the executive co-ordinator of the BC Council for International Cooperation’s Climate Change branch. This 20-year-old bachelor of environment student at Simon Fraser University heads a team of 40 volunteers focused on building youth capacity to be the climate champions the world needs. Strandberg-Salmon has already been in leadership with BCCIC in developing a climate justice toolkit for municipalities and writing a circular economy brief for the B.C. government. Now, his priority is to design a green jobs toolkit for high school students and educators.

Tell us about your project.

When I was in Grade 10, I knew I wanted to spend my working life alleviating the climate crisis. I used the standard B.C. Ministry of Education search engine to see what opportunities were out there and came up with exactly two jobs. Since my family and friends are almost all working on climate justice in one way or another, I knew there were lots of other ways to contribute, so I mapped out my own path with their help and got started. Now I want to ensure that when other high school students are trying to chart a career path in this area, they have better information at hand. We are building a comprehensive green jobs toolkit for high school career educators to connect students to the right opportunities. This will include a database so students can search opportunities based on their interests, see a diversity of pathways to achieve their goals, and identify funding sources.

Brennan Strandberg-Salmon on a nature walk with his family at Burns Bog Delta Nature Reserve. From left: Brennan, sister Mireta, mother Coro, and step-dad Phil. Photo by Brennan Strandberg-Salmon

Can you give us an example?

Suppose someone is good at math and interested in measurement. They might make a good climate risk assessor for industry. They might choose to start at a community college or university degree program with courses in statistics, business, and environmental sciences, followed by some graduate work towards an MBA. Along the way, they might do co-ops with business and with resource management departments in government and investment firms. That combination will help make them an attractive candidate. They are likely to also need information about student loans and grants and scholarships specifically directed at developing new economic leaders. For a math student to figure that all out on their own in Grade 11 would be a pretty tall order. We want to make it much easier.

This is still in the development stage. What is the next step?

Interested in a career in the #LowCarbon economy, but not sure what steps to take? Brennan Strandberg-Salmon has you covered. #ClimateChampions

We hope to launch in April 2022 and are now reaching out to career educators. In the meantime, as others hear about us, they are very keen to help. For example, after Canada’s National Observer published an editorial I wrote on this project, the not-for-profit Electricity Human Resources Canada funded the development of the next part of our work.

How did the way you were raised impact your current direction?

My mom is a consultant at the cutting edge of sustainable business practices. My dad has spent most of his life working on microcredit as a way to alleviate poverty. My step-dad made a career in labour, and my step-mom is deeply involved in environmental politics. It would have been strange for me not to join an environmental club at SFU. But it was still an inspiring eye-opener to see so many other young people, faculty, and admin staff committed to spend their lives contributing to a healthy planet.

Brennan Strandberg-Salmon calling for climate action at the Climate Strike in Vancouver. Photo by Mireta Strandberg-Salmon

What makes your work hard?

We can generate all the data in the world, but getting it used is quite tricky. The systems we must navigate are quite complex and some are resistant to the rapid pace of change we must have.

What worries you?

Personally, I do feel the weight of responsibility resting on my generation. The stakes are very high. But I am so inspired by the people I get to work and study with. I know they will always be there working with me.

Brennan Strandberg-Salmon and his sister Mireta are both pursuing resource and environmental management degrees at Simon Fraser University. Photo by Emily Ellen (IG:@itsemilyellen)

Do you have any advice for other young people?

I am naturally a very quiet and shy person, and so I am very often outside my comfort zone. But I know we cannot solve the problems if we stay there, so I try to lead by example. I have found it easier if I do things with my people and look for joy.

Find your niche and follow your passion. Don't worry if your first job is not the most impactful. What matters is that we get started.

What would you like to say to older people?

The world needs the talents of young people. Sometimes older people can help us see what we have to offer. Make decisions alongside the young people in your life and avoid deciding for them. It will help them to have confidence in themselves.