When I first applied to be part of the SAVE (Student Action for a Viable Earth) Tour I never quite envisioned myself getting up on stage and doing a rap song. But I realize as we travel to high schools across Canada that there are a lot of ways to hook students’ interest in activism and social change.
So if it takes expanding my musical horizons from usual range of classic rock to dispell the common attitude among young people that little can be done about the state of the world, then I’m all for it. After all, the popular media is packed with negative images. We are bombarded and overwhelmed by accounts of ozone depletion, global warming, deforestation, agism and sexism. The list could fill this page.
In the SAVE Tour we’re committed to combatting the cynicism that all this news can engender by bringing a message of youth empowerment to students across Canada. The tour got its start three years ago when ten high school and college-age youth developed a vision they hoped would spark the action needed to redirect the unsustainable path on which we’re traveling.
These ten students began educating themselves on the state of the earth and sharing their knowledge with students throughout Canada. But the tour does not restrict itself to just education about environmental problems. In fact, the major emphasis is on the power that youth can wield in implementing change in their local communities and the global community.
The tour has now visited 620 schools, and our message has been spread to 400,000 students. At the schools we present skits and slide shows about both environmental exploitation and ways students are becoming actively involved in protecting the earth.
Last spring when I realized I might have the opportunity to educate and empower youth on social justice and environmental issues while at the same time experiencing Canada as a whole, it seemed almost too good to be true. While filling out the application, the possibility of the tour still seemed distant. It was impossible to imagine myself away from the routine and consistency of formal schooling, the professors and the marking system especially.
After mailing my application to the tour, I promptly pushed it out of my mind and began preparation for starting college as a peace studies major at John Abbott College in Montreal. Three days before my departure for Montreal – with my classes organized and an apartment found – I was offered a position with the SAVE Tour. The decision was not a difficult one, and my formal education was put on the backburner so I could work for environmental and social change.
It is not a decision I regret, despite the hard work and long hours. I sometimes find myself missing the structure of school and the social aspect as well. There are times when after working for hours on a project or presentation I wish that my efforts could somehow be rewarded in the form of a grade so I’d know that my work was worthwhile.
But the rewards, when they do come, are far more satisfying than any number on a piece of paper could possibly be. The reaction of members of the audience is more than enough to keep us going through long bus marathons and sleepless nights. Knowing that even one person in the room gained the strength to work for societal change tells us that what we are doing is right and good.
As one grade eight student wrote the tour after a presentation: “Not knowing is terrifying and knowing is terrifying; but not knowing is hopeless and knowing may save us.”