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IMPACTing the future

Memorial students Yuri Gidge, Jonathan Chatman, Riley Pollum and Perla Hernandez took part in a recent national sustainability conference.


By Stephanie Barrett

According to GlobeScan, more than 50 per cent of Canadians consistently identify depletion of natural resources, fresh water shortages, loss of animal and plant species and air pollution as "very serious" issues. Jonathan Chatman, a marine environmental student at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) visited the University of Guelph recently to lend his energy to address these serious issues.

Mr. Chatman is among 165 college and university students chosen from more than 850 applicants across Canada to participate in IMPACT! The Co-operators Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership program. Visit for more information.

"This is such a great opportunity," said Mr. Chatman. "The conference will be a great venue to share ideas about sustainability and find new ways to solve problems that face our world on an environmental level."

David Suzuki, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, will be the keynote speaker at the program's key event.

"This conference will give us young educated adults of Canada the chance to discuss environmental issues through workshops taught by experts in the field," he added. "I hope to be able to open my mind about these issues by hearing how they have affected my peers and take these ideas back to my school as well as to the people in my community and province."

This is not the first time Mr. Chatman has shown keen interest in sustainability and environmental issues. This past summer, he travelled to the Arctic as part of the Students on Ice program, a program designed to motivate, inspire and expand young people's vision of the North and the planet.

Mr. Chatman joined his colleagues at the University of Guelph campus from Sept. 15-18 where they teamed up with experts to develop real sustainability solutions to take back to their campuses, communities, and current and future workplaces. The participants, ages 19-25, represented 70 Canadian colleges and universities, multiple backgrounds, perspectives and fields of study. The multi-disciplinary approach is intended to help spark creativity and to launch broad networks.

"The Co-operators launched the program in 2009 simply because Canada's young people have the most at stake in this debate and no one has more focus and energy than they do," said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. "We wanted to give them the opportunity to interact and work collaboratively to come up with plans, programs and commitments to create a more sustainable society."

Prior to the conference, participants must complete an online sustainability course created by The Natural Step Canada, find a mentor within a pre-assigned system, and interview them to begin exploring the sustainability issues within the system. During the conference, participants will apply this knowledge and work with national experts on systems approaches and solutions. After the conference, participants will go on to lead community sustainability initiatives, some with the help of grants from The Co-operators Foundation - Impact! Fund.
Also attending from Memorial University are Yuri Gidge, a graduate student in environmental science; Perla Hernandez, a political science student; and Riley Pollom, a graduate student in biology.

IMPACT! The Co-operators Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership is a partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation, the Natural Step Canada, the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, Wilfrid Laurier University, Lambton College, Conseil de la coopération de l'Ontario, AIESEC, and the Network for Business Sustainability.