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

Finnegan Brown is using art and political action to protect our climate. This 16-year-old high school student from Sooke, B.C., received a 2023 I-SEA Youth Climate Activism Award for an essay featuring his nature sketches, urban design ideas and his presentation of a private member’s bill at the 2023-24 B.C. Youth Parliament calling on the government to naturalize the grounds around the legislature.

Tell us about some of your projects.

Ever since I joined the Robert Bateman Foundation's nature sketch program, I have loved connecting with nature through art. I enjoy taking my friends out to sketch. If you pay close attention, awe is almost inevitable. While I see the need for more housing and development, I don't think we can be allowed to run roughshod over our Earth. We will have to collaborate with nature to make our futures sustainable, so I have designed useful and beautiful features for urban landscapes, like zero-waste dog washes and public washrooms. I have made short videos about bees and salmon. I was also part of a team of three who designed a “zine” informing our peers about the health impacts of forest fire smoke, connecting that to the burning of oil, coal and gas, and encouraging kids to burn less by taking the bus, biking and growing a garden.

The grounds around the B.C. legislature were not designed for sustainability. There is a lot of water-gulping grass, few if any drought-tolerant, fire-resistant, pollinator-friendly native plants and no shade to speak of. When I began my term as a member of the 95th session of the B.C. Youth Parliament, I brought forward a bill to turn the grounds into a model for sustainable use of urban green space. It passed unanimously and is now being considered by the B.C. government, which is committed to giving serious consideration to all our legislation.

What is hard about this kind of work?

The food we eat, the way we travel, the clothes we wear — all our decisions are impacting the planet, mostly negatively. It can be overwhelming trying to be responsible.

Finnegan Brown canoeing in Temagami, Ont. Photo by Runa Knudsen

What gives you hope?

Finnegan Brown, 16, is using #art and political action to protect our #climate. A high school #student from Sooke, B.C., Brown received a 2023 #I-SEA Youth Climate Activism Award. #youth #climate

As a Youth Climate Activism Award winner, I now help other young activists share their stories with each other and with us as we review applications for the 2024 winners. Applications are open every year until Earth Day on April 22. As we tell each other our stories, we learn we are not alone. Indeed, as the sponsor of the awards, I-SEA says we are an unstoppable wave.

What do you see if we get this right?

Policymakers, world leaders and large corporations will listen and respond to us.

What made you interested in caring for our environment?

My grandmother and I would draw together, and she would make me feel my ideas had value. And dogs!

Do you have advice for other young people?

You don't have to be an artist to make art, and you don't have to be a climate scientist to have an impact. Ask people who are doing things you admire how they got there. Find a mentor.

What about older readers?

Be a mentor. Your guidance, experience and advice can have a huge impact.

Keep reading