You might say that Jake Torrie was born an environmentalist. With both parents employed as energy experts pushing renewables and conservation, Jake was the kind of kid who, he says, was “enrolled in after school programs and sent off to summer camp where you went around with a petition to save the rainforest.”
But despite all the doom and gloom and apocalyptic predictions of global warming, which could certainly put a damper on his future, Jake, just 21 years old and still a student, is, instead, optimistic. In fact, he is probably not as depressed as those who might be less aware of the climate crises, he say, because of all the people he has met “who are so enthusiastic about what they can do and how they can make a difference.”
He counts himself among them. Since high school he has been involved in environmental issues and now with a number of “actions” with Greenpeace under his belt, he is off to Nairobi for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. As part of Greenpeace’s Solar Generation, he will join some 70 or so other young people at a preliminary youth conference to discuss how they can change the world and secure their futures.
Jake expects to learn a lot, lessons he plans to bring back to Canada.
He also expects to pass on some of his own experience, which is quite extensive. As far back as high school, Jake was involved in green programs, speaking to teachers and students about how they can save energy. “Sometimes you would have a whole library full of computers that were never turned off,” he remembers.
He really got involved when he joined Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign after he moved to Toronto from Ottawa to study peace and conflict at university. He has taken part in several demonstrations including a protest at a golf tournament for the premier and at a Liberal Party policy convention to which Greenpeace showed up with a flatbed truck carrying fake barrels of nuclear waste.
He was even arrested after occupying the offices of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Although he only got a “ticket” and didn’t actually go to jail, he was prepared to be imprisoned so convinced is he that that the provincial government’s plan to build nuclear reactors is wrong. What makes him so sure he is right? “It is the scale and the permanence of it,” he says, “and the investment of huge amounts of money - $40 billion – in a technology that will cause problems for hundreds of years.” He is also convinced that this in the perfect opportunity to develop alternative source of energy such as wind and solar.
Many environmental groups oppose nuclear power and advocate renewables, but Greenpeace has a particular appeal for Jake. “It has real political goals, and that is how change is best achieved,” he believes. Moreover, he says, “There is a real sense of connection to the decisions being made when you confront those who are making those decisions, more so that writing a letter or signing a petition. When you go to where they are, they can’t ignore you and they realize the depth of commitment within the movement.”
But Jake doesn’t see direct action as the only means of changing things. He also believes in setting an example and has been involved in greening his university campus so people can see what realistically can be done.
He supports Greenpeace’s strong stand on issues. “I think it gives hope to others when honest people are true to their values and can make a difference whereas so much in life has to be comprised.”
In Nairobi, Jake expects to meet other like-minded activists whom he can keep in touch with and tap into their networks. He also expects to meet people affected by climate changes such as those from South Pacific where the islands are being swamped. Before he leaves, he is boning up on the evidence of melting ice in the Arctic, so he can relate to others the impact of global warming in Canada.
While there, he hopes to have the chance to meet the Canadian delegates to hear their argument for basically backing down from Kyoto. And while he realizes he may not be able to influence their position, he says it will help him when he comes back to Canada to influence the process.
So attune to the causes of global warming and aware that his flight to Nairobi will contribute to climate change, Jake and his band are holding a concert prior to his departure to raise enough money to offset the huge carbon cost of his flight. Music, he says, is an important medium for relaying the message of global warming. Many young people have no real sense of community even if they are aware of the issues. Instead they follow the music. “People you go to a concert with are often the same people you go to a demonstration with,” he says.
“What excites people most is when they have solution, so if they can do something at home or at work that makes a difference people, jump at the chance,” he says. Jake does his bit: rides a bicycle, eats a vegetarian diet, recycles, and takes shorter showers. However, for him it is no sacrifice. “It’s fun to ride a bike and it’s really healthy to eat less meat and you can save money conserving energy.”
Direct action also makes him feel like his is doing something. “ Sometimes,” he says, “I feel like I am doing very little, so I am surprised it is not more common and that more people don’t act when it is so easy.”