Spotlight on Young Nature Leaders: Emma Kirke
Growing up in Ottawa, Young Women for Nature mentee Emma Kirke remembers visits to the Arboretum, to connect with nature close by, especially bugs. Her childhood camping trips and cottaging in the summer also helped shaped her love of nature and the outdoors.
It was in grade 8 when she participated in the regional science fair, that she was first introduced to the Ottawa Field Naturalists who sponsored her participation at Nature Ontario’s Youth summit. During her time with Ontario Nature’s Youth Council she got involved with youth-lead Pollinator campaigns, introducing her to the power of activism/petitions alongside community action like organized plantings. Over time, she got more involved and helped organize and lead workshops at the annual Youth Summit.
Emma at the 2017 Ontario Nature Youth Summit, photo by Brendan Toews
At the same time, she participated in the outdoor education program and led her environmental club at her high school. She was nominated as an emerging young women leader because of her leadership efforts with the Youth Summit and was intrigued by the opportunity to participate in the Women for Nature mentorships. Emma liked the idea that her mentor could give her a broad sense of the sector in Canada and strengthen her understanding of future career options. Many youth today feel a pressure to decide their path very early on and her mentor worked with her to see the value that critical thinking and leadership skills are applicable in a broad range of roles in the conservation sector. As well her mentor, Eleanor Fast, encouraged her to widen her lens when looking at opportunities. Through her mentorship discussions, she also learned how to better position her skills and experiences when seeking opportunities in the sector.
Emma stated she really enjoyed hearing different perspectives on environmental issues. She feels that many of her peers are concerned about issues like climate change but do not always understand how youth of today can address this crisis through conservation work. In her opinion there is also insufficient understanding in her generation about the critical importance of biodiversity and its relation to climate change. Some young people may seem less concerned about species loss only because it is simply not on their radar yet or they do not understand its consequences.
Emma feels that she and her peers at times can feel overwhelmed, pessimistic or even depressed by the climate crisis. But it was reassuring to her to hear from her mentor about the collaborative solutions in the past to deal with ozone depletion. Hearing this, brought her more hope that society can come together globally to deal with the twin issues of today, climate and biodiversity crises. And that people can have a sense of agency.
In addition to confidence building and a better sense of connectedness with others working in the conservation sector, Emma felt an important take-way from her mentorship is that critical thinking skills are transferable. We are thankful to Emma for also volunteering her research, writing and creative skills over the past 6 months to assist us in our Protected Areas work here at Nature Canada.
She wants to take the lessons from the mentorship and her experience this past year working in the House of Commons Page program to educate and encourage youth to use their voices and collective power to seek policy change to better protect our environment. She personally wants to engage in work to ensure the right to a healthy environment. She believes her continuing studies in the Co-op program at the University of Waterloo in Environmental Resources/ Sustainability will support her future career aspirations and she is now volunteering with a variety of sustainability focused groups on campus.
Thanks to the Women for Nature and our funders for investing in the people powering a health environment in Canada.