The roughly week-long conference is open to 30 northern youth between the ages of 18 and 30. It offers an opportunity for young northerners to gather and learn about different facets of climate change from Elders, researchers, land users, policymakers and other climate leaders.
The summit is a “youth-designed, youth-led conference that focuses on bringing young climate leaders together to give them the tools, and the opportunity, and the network to really bring climate action to their own homes,” said Brandon Pludwinski, environmental education project officer for Ecology North, who is organizing this year’s event.
Although the event changes from year to year, past summits have typically involved discussions led by mentors as well as an on-the-land activity. So far, the event has been run in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and along the Dempster Highway.
This year is the first time the event is taking place in Nunavut, Pludwinski said.
It’s also the first year that a youth advisory committee has been involved in planning the event. The committee, composed of 10 youth from across the territories, provided guidance on what the event should cover.
“At the end of the day, the Young Leaders’ Summit is the Young Leaders’ Summit, right? It’s a summit designed for the youth,” said Pludwinski. “The last thing we want to do is try to guess – and guess incorrectly – about what the youth want to hear about.”
The summit, scheduled for August 17-22, will involve sharing circles, a mock Arctic Council debate and discussions on species migration, capitalism, colonialism and climate change, according to Pludwinski.
There will be time for cooking and crafting with Elders from Cambridge Bay, as well as an afternoon on the land preparing fish with the Kitikmeot Friendship Society.
In addition, the event organizers are planning a mini research conference, where scientists from various federal departments and universities will give short presentations about their work. Pludwinski said the hope is to have youth participants spend an afternoon in the field, collecting data and analyzing it alongside researchers.
Finally, youth participants will have time to plan for a climate action project they can pursue in their home communities.
“It is a pretty intense schedule,” Pludwinski said, adding there is a lot of overlap between activities as different climate change impacts are highly interconnected.
Nonetheless, he described the atmosphere at past summits as hopeful and exciting.
“A lot of that is crafted by the people who are there,” he said. “It takes a certain type of person to say, ‘I’m going to go spend my week talking about climate change, climate challenges and climate opportunities, and how those intersect with different social opportunities.’
“It’s really cool to have a room full of young leaders just putting their brains together, and really awesome and really powerful.”
The event, including travel, accommodations and food, is free for youth in the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Nunatsiavut. People interested in attending can apply through an online form or by calling Ecology North at 867-873-6019. Applications are open until July 20.
Pludwinski said Ecology North is aiming for regional representation from the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon. Although it depends on the number of applicants, he said interested youth have a pretty good chance of getting in.