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Starfish Canada: Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25!

Ontario's Jayden Rae is getting youth outside
#8 - JAYDEN RAE
HOMETOWN: WHITBY, ONTARIO
AGE: 16

With an impressive resume, including an expedition to the Antarctic, committee chair of the Ontario Nature Youth Council, and founder of the Whitby Environmental Youth Alliance, it is hard to believe that Jayden Rae is only sixteen years old!

Her childhood was spent exploring the natural environment around her - the very environment in which she finds her sense of place. Unfortunately, not everyone in her generation feels connected to nature, which is what has led her to become so involved in her community, and bringing youth to the outdoors. Her commitment and passion for the environment came about while working as a legislative page. After realizing that the environment was not a priority for the government, she decided to make it a priority for her.

Jayden had been a member of the Ontario Nature Youth Council since 2011 and contributes her time as the Events Committee Chair, where she helps to coordinate stewardship events for Earth Week. She also sits on the Durham SustainAbility Youth Steering Committee, where she is developing environmental lesson plans that will help compliment the current Ontario curriculum. This year, she was also accepted as a youth member of the Durham Environmental Advisory Committee. The roles she holds in local government allows her to push for environmental action in a space where she has previously seen little action, and this also allows her to give a youthful perspective that is often overlooked.

This gap is what led her to founding The Whitby Environmental Youth Alliance (WEYA), a youth initiated organization that gives youth the opportunity to develop the public speaking, organizational, communication, and planning skills they will need in the future. Events they have organized include an Earth Day Tree planting, community outreach programs during Earth Hour, invasive species removals, gardening, community clean-ups, and biodiversity counts. The groups also coordinated with municipal politicians, contributed to the Town of Whitby Youth Strategy, and filmed an eco-documentary for the Whitby Film Festival.

Jayden’s work with ecology and the environment is just getting started. In the future, she plans to study political science and environmental studies at university, and intern at a not-for-profit law firm.  This internship will be a stepping stone for her on her way to law school, after which she plans to become an environmental lawyer. Jayden’s dream is to travel to all the Canadian national parks and document the cultural and ecological difference through photographs. She wants to use her creativity to document the Canadian wilderness so she can “share with others what we can’t afford to lose.”

 

Global traveller Noa Bridson is creating change internationally
#21: NOA BRIDSON
HOMETOWN: STAYNER, ONTARIO
AGE: 17

Noa’s passion for the environment began when she was 10 years old, while travelling worldwide and living in remote locations such as the Himalayas and backpacking throughout Africa and Asia. While travelling, she was quickly mesmerized by the complexity and beauty of the environment, but also horrified by how quickly it was being destroyed by human impact. As a result, she vowed to dedicate her life to protecting the natural world and all that lives in it.

Whether it was volunteering at an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand or in Costa Rica monitoring sea turtle habitat, she understood at a young age that humans can have both a positive or negative impact on the environment.  Between the ages of 12 to 14, she initiated a wide range of environmental activities from being the leader of a green team, to getting her friends to go on month long anti-consumerism strikes by asking for donations instead of birthday gifts. She also participated in roadside cleanups and made presentations on various environmental issues.  

When she returned to Canada, she began to establish her role as an environmental leader in her community, to share her knowledge, experience and passion with others. She has founded her own eco-club named EarthLink that brings awareness, involvement, initiative and passion to projects in her school and community. She is also the environmental representative on Student Council at her school, and she takes an active role in the Ontario Nature Youth Council. She is also on the board of directors for the Environment Network, an organization that addresses local issues. Whether it is through projects that she has initiated within her community and school, or public speaking at events such as the Optimist Club Youth Awards, she has inspired and moved many adults and children to take interest in the world around them.

Noa is confident that she wants to make a positive impact on the environment and minimize her ecological footprint as much as possible. “Although I do not know my exact academic route, or the final destination, I know that by using my talents and determination I will be able to change the world for the better. Ultimately my greatest goal in the next 5 years is to inspire and engage as many people as possible.” Whether it is environmental law, design, or a politician, we have no doubt in our minds that Noa will be successful in whatever route she takes.

 

Moe Qureshi is inspiring change in local communities across Canada
#24 - MUHAMMAD (MOE) QURESHI
HOMETOWN: MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO
AGE: 21

The concept of nature is often an important part of environmentalists’ interests and motivations. Amongst other initiatives, Moe Qureshi is committed to connecting people with nature in a way that encourages them to appreciate it. His work at the University of Toronto and beyond has landed him in the 24th spot in our Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 2014.

His childhood in Mississauga, Ontario involved exploring the many fields and greenspaces with his friends. This experience influenced Moe to become an active environmentalist and explore the industrial changes occurring in his community. Moe’s charisma and ability to connect with others has lead to many outstanding accomplishments.

Moe has been involved with Ontario Nature since June 2010 and is currently a member of the Ontario Nature Youth Council (ONYC). The ONYC’s mission is to build a provincial network of youth dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and educating communities while protecting wild species and wild spaces. Moe and his fellow committee members had to overcome the stereotype that youth should not be taken seriously because of their inexperience. With his colleagues, Moe worked diligently to convince influential people and businesses that their ideas are worth listening to.

In addition to his role on the ONYC, Moe has been a spokesperson for Ontario Nature and has given several workshop demonstrations to interested youth. These presentations are important to encourage and guide youth to become involved with the protection of natural spaces and the environment. Moe’s confidence and enthusiasm allow him to connect with youth and motivate them to take action.

Although Moe does significant work with youth, he also acknowledges the importance of working across generations. He emphasizes that collaboration between youth and adults is vital to achieve change. Moe suggests that “we are all motivated by similar ideas and have assets that can help each other.” Furthermore, Moe claims that adults need to involve youth in the environmental conversation and consult younger generations for their opinion. Fostering an intergenerational dialogue is important because environmental issues impacts all individuals, regardless of age.

It is evident that Moe is energetic about his work and is dedicated to making a difference wherever he goes. As a natural leader, Moe is using his talents to engage individuals of all ages in a conversation about the environment. His knowledge and confidence make him a worthy finalist in our Top 25. We are certain Moe will continue to make waves across Canada and contribute to a greener world!

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