An update from the first two schools of our final tour. Let’s take a look at a community (in Canada’s True North!) that’s ready to take the lead on climate action.

I was extremely nervous.

It was the night before my first school in Whitehorse, Yukon. I did a practice run of the presentation, and for the life of me, I just couldn’t remember my script. I ended up staying up past 1 in the morning trying to remember and remember and remember. Yes, I had traveled more than 5,000 km away from home to deliver a presentation that I had forgotten. Major panic.

But when I got on stage and started speaking the next morning, to my great amazement, I went autopilot. My mouth said exactly what the script said, and I would go “wow, yes that’s what I used to say, how could I not remember this last night?”

At Vanier, we had a 15-min public Q&A session and a workshop. Questions were sharp and relevant. I was amazed at the level of engagement the students showed. We did not have a dataset on Yukon on climate denial, so I didn’t know what to expect. I studied its history, government structure, energy infrastructure, and recent news on proposed mines, diesel generator, LNG plant, and windmills.

Turns out, Whitehorse is a very interesting city.

Culturally, it’s closer to Vancouver than anywhere else. Whitehorse population grew from 26,000 to 31,500 in just 3 years. The City of Whitehorse alone has 78% of the Yukon population. People call Whitehorse “the second Ottawa” due to the number of government jobs that exist in Whitehorse. As a result, Whitehorse has a highly educated, well-travelled, politically engaged population. Per capita, Whitehorse has the third-highest francophone population, according to a resident. The Internet, however, is quite slow everywhere. Students and teachers showed an incredible amount of interest in the topic and the desire to do something. But because of its remote location, there’s a lack of engagement and support from the NGOs. I would say Whitehorse would be one of the highest returns on investment for NGOs to engage; they are ready and willing.

This was the same at the second school I visited. At F. H. Collins, I experienced an unparalleled explosive response. Wow. A number of journalists from CBC radio and two local newspapers filmed the presentation and interviewed students and myself. A group of school board staff attended the presentation, as well. And a student arranged a meeting with her mother who is a Whitehorse city councillor as Whitehorse is debating whether to declare a climate emergency in two weeks. The vote is currently 4-3 against declaring a climate emergency. Student arranged the meeting because her mother is voting against the motion.

Students were ready and longing to take action. The quality of students’ questions, the substance of the discussion, and answers to the media blew me away. Whitehorse is a paramount example of being left behind solely because of its remote location. This is a nice treat to start the tour and a graceful reward after the long drive – both physically and mentally – to get to Yukon.

Turns out, 200 schools later, it still takes a lot out of me to deliver my presentation. But as you can witness here, it is always, always worth it.

Final tour: let’s go! One school at a time.