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These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.

Miranda Baksh is harnessing the power of community to protect our climate. As a founder of the youth-led, not-for-profit Community Climate Council, she helps 30 to 40 volunteers in the racialized and newcomer-dominated Peel region of southern Ontario learn how our changing climate impacts them and the places they know. They learn to develop political advocacy skills and organize events to engage people of all ages.

Tell us about your project.

We offer a platform for people to take action based on their own community’s priorities. Many want to know more before they engage, so we offer nature walks and self-guided tours in English, Hindi and Ojibwe of flora and fauna in local parks in the Brampton area. This creates a sense of welcome to the many Hindi-speaking people in the area and reminds us of our responsibility as settlers on the land we call home.

Others can learn about working with Indigenous people and strategies for bridging cultures more generally in workshops led by Gary Pritchard-Gniw (Golden Eagle) and meet activists in other youth-led organizations.

We also offer workshops on choosing a green career.

For those ready to act, we offer options ranging from park cleanups to learning why and how to approach elected decision-makers, and participation in rallies to demonstrate community support to elected officials.

How did this get started?

In 2019, I joined Youth Challenge International to understand how to get engaged in climate leadership in my community. With four other young women from the area, we explored options for making a difference in our racialized communities. We were inspired by the student climate strikes but knew most racialized immigrant people would be faced with barriers to go to Toronto to participate. We wondered if they would participate in a more local opportunity. We set a date, advertised on social media and were thrilled when over 250 people came to Brampton city hall to tell decision-makers they wanted more action on climate change. People had a great time and continued the event in a local park with a talking circle. But then, they all went back to their homes and, of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were once again separate.

As a founder of the not-for-profit Community Climate Council, Miranda Baksh helps volunteers in the racialized Peel region of southern Ontario learn how our changing #climate impacts them and the places they know. #youth

We set up this community-based, youth-led, not-for-profit to learn what would work to draw people back into climate action. Since then, hundreds have taken our tours and dozens have taken our workshops. We also have a dedicated, engaged core group of about 30 who step into leadership in various ways on various issues.

Elected officials recognize our ability to provide a collective voice. I was recently honoured by the mayor of Brampton with an award for excellence in community leadership. We are now being approached for help applying our model to other communities in southern Ontario.

How did you get involved?

When I was a master’s student, I was focused on international climate justice and thought I would work in other countries. But I realized the place I can be most effective is right here at home. I began looking for ways to serve and found Youth Climate International, which helped me combine my interest in justice and local action.

The co-founders of Community Climate Council in front of Brampton's city hall. Photo submitted by Miranda Baksh

What makes it hard?

We are all volunteers and juggling becomes a way of life. It is hard to figure out the right balance of inspiring volunteers to get things done while respecting the balance we all need between responsibility and time off.

What gives you hope?

The people who connect with us and the fun we have together as we learn to see and strive to protect more than the human world around us.

What do you see if we get this right?

People will fight for what they love and we love our local communities. Our model teaches that we are not separate from our natural environments and our voices can be heard. I hope our model is useful, as the need for public engagement to protect our homes is urgent.

What is next for you?

Community Climate Council work helped me qualify for my current job leading community engagement for an environmental advocacy group. I am excited by the possibilities. In addition, I offer green career consulting services and would be happy to help readers figure out their next step.

Do you have anything you want to say to other young people?

Don't wait any longer to get engaged with a group. I had no idea I could start a not-for-profit, speak at rallies, or talk to elected officials until I dove in. You have way more capacity and ability than you might think. Find mentors who can guide you. People will enjoy being asked and this can be very reassuring.

What about older readers?

Don’t underestimate the gifts you have to bring, whether they are time, skills, guidance or financial. You are needed.