YHD Blogs — An Unsung Agricultural Hero: Silvopasture

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Ainslie Young  

     As many current agricultural practices are wildly unsustainable and unethical, the urgent climate crisis and a need for more environmentally friendly agronomic techniques have led to the rediscovery of old farming concepts. Among these techniques is silvopasture, a diverse way of farming that could be an answer to creating sustainable agriculture for the future.

     So how does silvopasture work? This method of farming involves integrating trees with livestock as opposed to an open pasture. Farmers can either plant new trees on previous grazing lands or use pre-existing woodlands/orchards on their property. The trees must be far apart enough to allow sunlight through to let the grass grow, but numerous enough that there are significant patches of shade for hot days and protection from storms and wind. Remaining woodland that is too dense for silvopastures can also be re-purposed for other farming resources (such as tapping trees for syrup or growing mushrooms).

     Although implementing agroforestry techniques might seem like only a small change, the benefits it provides are unbelievably numerous and impactful. From a climate-related, environmental perspective, silvopastures increase the wildlife abundance and the overall biodiversity of pastures and improve both water quality and lessen harmful runoff into nearby rivers/streams. Most importantly, the additional trees and improved soil quality can contribute to carbon sequestration (the removal/capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere), therefore reducing greenhouse gasses emitted by animals and the farm itself. Silvopasture has even been rated the top 9th climate solution by Project Drawdown (a large non-profit working on climate mitigation). And the advantages silvopastures bring are not just sustainability-related – animal welfare is drastically improved as trees provide both shade/protection from elements and better-quality forage food and a farmers’ source of income can be diversified and increased.

     Despite being a concept around for centuries, as well as a scientifically researched and acclaimed technique of farming, Silvopasture as an agronomic method has yet to gain enough traction in influential

YHD Blogs – Meet the Meat Alternatives

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Erika Chung  

Alternative proteins have exploded in popularity in recent years, gaining immense mainstream attention. Advocates tout their similar look, taste and mouthfeel, sans traditional meat’s environmental impact.

Meat alternative company Impossible Foods and their competitor Beyond Meat have partnered with international franchises such as Burger King, Subway and KFC. These deals have attracted attention from many investors, with Impossible Foods raising $300 million in investor funding. Then in May 2019, Beyond Meat went public, trading at $25 USD. It sits presently at $120.

This YHD has tried the Beyond Burger and can confirm the meatless burger tastes nearly identical to a beef burger. The meat-like taste of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat products have greatly contributed to their success among meat eaters.

Another type of meat alternative has also begun its introduction to consumers. Cell-based meat, produced by companies like Memphis Meats, is not on the market yet but has been in the works for years. These real meat products are grown from animal cells in specialized labs. It eliminates the need for the slaughter of animals but preserves the very same meat and taste.

Meat alternatives are not new. For years, “veggie burgers” have been sold at mainstream grocery stores. But what sets Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats apart?

Traditionally, meat alternatives appealed to a niche market of vegans and vegetarians. The new generation of meat alternative is targeted towards meat eaters. By producing tasty, cheap and nutritious products, meat alternative companies strive to promote plant based products to the average meat-eating consumer.

A significant driving factor in meat alternative interest is the environmental impact of meat production. Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of all GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, equivalent to the fuel burned by the world’s transport vehicles. Livestock is linked to both deforestation and water pollution, releasing harmful pesticides, sewage and antibiotics into the environment. If the average western consumer adopted a plant based diet, GHG intensity could be halved.

Meat production and consumption has long been a part of human history – through our myths, traditions and religion. The industrial revolution brought forth a change in animal farming. The factory farm maximized profit by keeping animals inside, feeding them grain and bred to grow fatter. Compared to vegetables’ water footprint of 322 L/kg, chicken uses up 4,325L/kg, pork 5,988L/kg, and beef 15,415L/kg.

Meat alternatives have the potential to replace meat products as a consumer’s first choice. Benefits of meat alternatives include reduced land use, water use and emission of greenhouse gases. This switch from traditional livestock could significantly help the environment in the fight against climate change.

YHD Blogs – All About Acid Rain

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Kara Yeh 

What is it?

I’m sure most of you have heard the term “acid rain” and had no idea what it was. Well, breaking it down to the bare bones, acid rain is when rainfall is made acidic by dry deposition. Dry deposition includes acidic gases and solid particles, both of which are commonly produced by factories or car engines. Today, there is an extreme amount of carbon emissions when we burn fossil fuels to fuel our cars. The carbon dioxide gas (CO2) from these emissions then quickly enters the atmosphere, where it reacts with water (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) — resulting in acid rain. 


Why do we care?

While acid rain naturally occurs from lightning storms, air pollution plays a larger role in the formation of acid rain. Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, there has been a 47 percent increase in carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, which is a significant amount! Acid rain affects not only us, but the buildings, environment, and other organisms that surround us. Buildings break down and rust faster due to the increase of ions in acid rain. Water, an essential for most organisms on Earth, is undrinkable in the occurrence of acid rain due to the low pH it has. As a result of the low pH, aquatic organisms and plants cannot survive and there is biodiversity loss as the ecosystem becomes dominated by acid-tolerant species. 


How we can help?

As a caretaker of our environment, it is our responsibility to take action. Taking action can be in the form of advocation, volunteer work, or by reducing your carbon footprint. For example, doing something as simple as walking to school every day instead of taking the car would still have an impact on the environment! Even the smallest actions can have large impacts, so what’s stopping you from starting?

YHD Blogs – The Three Pillars of Sustainability

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Althea Fikri-Chapman 

Have you ever wondered why making changes in our society is so challenging? The popular term we are using now is intersectional environmentalism. This term refers to how racial and social justice relate to, or intersect with, environmental justice. An important framework for understanding and planning change that will be lasting,  are the three pillars of sustainability which include the consideration of environmental, social and economic pillars of such change. These pillars are also commonly called: planet, people and profits. These three pillars are the justice humanity needs in order to maintain the balance and stability of what we call home, the earth. In order to stop the different environmental crises that are going on around the world we need to ensure equilibrium between these three different pillars. The First Nations around the world have always shown great communication, and have embraced the concept of equality and respect for all living things. Our industrial and postindustrial society has, however, favoured the economic model that has devalued social and environmental justice in favour of economic growth.  

For the past couple of generations we have all been practicing what we call incremental sustainability, which is not enough. Incremental sustainability is when we make visible small changes, for example recycling plastic without addressing the fundamental problem that is banning plastic all together. Even those small changes we are making may have some impact in our area, these don’t move the needle across the globe with other poor countries. For example, when you buy an Iphone the components of metal are mined in  poorer countries where the labour and environmental laws are well below our acceptable standards. While more people can buy an Iphone because of this, you can see that it does not balance the three pillars in a global sense. Moreover the pollutants from our discarded technology often end up in these same poorer countries. In order to make change, we need our higher authorities to be looking out for the interest of the many instead of the few. We also need them to think long term about the costs of using our natural resources and impact on the environment.  

YHD Blogs – Sustainable Utensils

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Brian Yang

Although many fast-food chains and restaurants have already begun using disposable wooden cutlery and paper straws, many continue to use plastics. It is widely known that plastic utensils are much cheaper than any other alternative, however, the impact on our environment it has is detrimental. 

There are many incredibly harmful impacts on our environment through both the production and the disposal of plastics. During the process of producing plastics in factories, a significant amount of energy and carbon is released into our atmosphere. As an increasing number of factories worldwide release greenhouse gases, this can cause catastrophic changes to our climate,  which lead to increased heat, droughts and wildfires. The disposal of plastics creates yet another alarming impact. Many dispose of their single-use plastics in the garbage, however, in many cases they still end up on the ground, forests, beaches and waterways. The harmful choice to litter can lead to two main impacts – the endangerment of wildlife and the contamination of water. 

First, single-use plastics have high chances of being disposed of incorrectly through the ground, forests, beaches and waterways. Whether through road trips, camp trips or a simple day out at the beach, these seemingly minor actions of leaving a plastic lid on the ground can result in animals such as birds in the city, bears in the forests, and turtles by the beach to unknowingly consume this indigestible and harmful material. The effect of these plastics on these animals include adverse digestional effects due to the chemicals in plastic, ingestion that reduces the volume in the stomach, and finally, the chance of animals getting tangled up in plastic. 

Secondly, with plastics roaming in waterways, they can release harmful chemicals that are poisonous to any organism that utilizes the water. This includes a toxic effect on wildlife that rely on the source of water, a potentially harmful effect on humans that rely on this waterway at home with their sinks, or water used in industrial spaces such as pools and waterparks. 

Now with the use of wooden cutlery and paper straws, there come many benefits. Wood is completely compostable, and because many companies that produce wooden utensils do not use chemicals in their production, it is also completely safe to use. Some advantages of wooden utensils include a durable utensil that is unlikely to break and the beneficial impact on our environment. Though wood is an absorbent material and bacteria and water can be soaked in, these are quite ideal as a single-use utensil.

By educating ourselves about the negative impacts plastic has on our environment and ourselves, hopefully, convinces you as the reader to utilize the sturdy and environmentally friendly wooden utensils.

YHD Blogs — Power of a Plant Based Diet

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Bianca Rothe-Nikull

I can remember saying no to meat. A small four year old sitting upon my father’s lap, delectable smoked salmon in front of us, fresh from the Kitsilano Farmers market. I could not do it. I never ate meat, and by the second grade, I had stopped eating the tiny morsels of fish my family would offer me, and after 13 years of being vegetarian this year I dedicated myself to going completely vegan. It is utterly bizarre to me, the facts are right in front of us; a plant based diet is incredibly effective in combating the impending doom of climate change, but veganism is still seen as subpar. I call to challenge this claim. With a plant based diet one saves approximately 1,100 gallons of water, 45 lbs of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and the life of an animal every single day. I am not here to tell you to go vegan. Not here to argue against the fundamental reasons a vegan diet is not attainable for everybody, but here to say it exists on a spectrum. By choosing to have one vegan meal a week, to choose to try a new dish with your family, to challenge somebody to do the same, you are actively doing something good for the people, animals and land on our planet. I felt helpless for so long in our climate emergency. Not knowing how I could tangibly help improve the depreciation of nature I could see around me, until I did my research. It’s all about making micro changes within your life. It’s a decision you make every time you sit down to eat. How will I impact the world, how will I do my personal best to advocate for the things I believe in. Challenge yourself to grow. Step out of your comfort zone and become part of the solution. It is our collective social responsibility to actively be combatting the disastrous state which the world is being perpetually pushed towards. Plant based choices fight against worldwide malnourishment, factory farming, deforestation, water runoff contamination, overall degradation of our environment, overuse of fossil fuels, and abuse of a variety of natural resources, to name a few. The power of making these changes lies in its accessibility. It really is all about the small choices. We have the power to make a choice every day, every single time we shop. Do your research, and make choices you in turn can believe in. 

Climate in the Vancouver School Curriculum

This article is part of our “blog series” — written by youth, for youth, by members of our very own VSBSC executive team. We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we did writing them and stay tuned for future posts!

By Nahira Gerster-Sim

Climate change and environmental activism is a hot topic in this day and age. As technology evolves and international relations deepen, the society is becoming more aware of the harmful impact humans have on the planet. Eco-friendly diets, reusable straws and bags, and climate-related seminars are increasingly popular. Larger solutions such as BC’s climate action plan, and the United Nations Paris Agreement have put the climate crisis as a global priority.

Of course, the government continues to make many empty and unfulfilled promises, and as a result of COVID-19, tackling environmental policies have been put on the backburner. The pandemic has destabilized both the society and economy, leaving citizens with a rapidly deteriorating planet, limited jobs, and unequal access to food and water. However, despite the array of unwanted changes, the province has chosen to persevere, and is working hard to achieve a “new normal”. 

A little over two months ago, students went back to school. Receiving an education was prioritized over eradicating the virus, so class structure and composition was adapted to accommodate social distancing. The government has decided that ultimately, we must plan for a future beyond the next 12 months, and children being in school is crucial to BC’s economic survival. There is an average of 5 million Canadian youth enrolled in K-12 school each year. 92% of adults have at least a high school graduation diploma, and there is a grand total of 289 public and private secondary schools in BC.

Education is considered a fundamental need, a tool to survival and prosperity. Yet countless people do not have the opportunity nor can afford to attend school. It’s difficult for those of us privileged with an education to envision life would be without homework, quizzes and presentations. We can imagine though, that the absence of school would leave us untethered and uncertain of our future. School is an avenue to learn about the world, delve into interesting subjects, and explore potential career paths.

Unfortunately, the BC curriculum places very little emphasis on studying climate change. In Grade 10, the science course covers certain environmental issues such as renewable energy, overconsumption, and food and water security. Other topics include climate policy works, government interaction with stakeholders, and various national and international climate strategies.

Starting in Grade 11, high school students can choose from a wider variety of science and social studies courses. After researching the BC curriculum guide, I was only able to identify two grade 11 and 12 classes that clearly mentioned “climate” in the teaching guide. Social justice 12 addresses Intersectional Environmentalism (discrimination and equality within climate change), and Science of citizens 11 and 12 discusses societal and geographical effects of climate change, as well as environmental solutions on both a domestic and international scale.

Of the 40 courses students are required to take for graduation, climate is covered in just three classes. There was little or no mention of environmental studies in either the Grade 8 or 9 curriculum. Furthermore, to my knowledge, Science for Citizens 11/12 is not normally offered in Vancouver secondary schools. For an issue that is so quickly and disastrously affecting the ecosystem, this coverage is not sufficient. Youth are currently given minimal say in our education, but it is obvious that educating youth about climate change is beneficial for the entire population. Through events like VSBSC, we can inspire one another to learn more about sustainability and take matters into our own hands. 

During this year of online workshops, mentor sessions, and webinars, I encourage each and every one of you to raise your voice, and come up with solutions to better the climate education.