Climate Change: Nearly Half of Young Canadians Think Humanity is Doomed


About three quarters of Canadians between 16 and 25 see the future of the planet as “frightening.” Are you one of them?

Climate change is coming — or rather, it’s already here. Earthquakes, floods, heat waves, you name it: the changing climate is whipping them all up, and more. It’s no wonder that nearly half of young Canadians think “humanity is doomed,” according to a recent survey of 1,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 25, run by professors at both campuses of Lakehead University.

It’s over for humanity

Other sobering stats have come from the survey, too. Nearly eight in 10 respondents reported climate change-related impacts to their mental health, with four in 10 saying their feelings about the changing climate “negatively impacted their daily life.” 76% say that we’ve failed to take care of the planet.

On the positive side, 71% of respondents feel that we can make a positive change if we pull together!

What can you do to fight climate change?

If you’re feeling down about the prospect of accelerating climate catastrophe, you’re clearly not alone. Years of climate neglect have built up, and even today, efforts to combat climate change seem meagre in face of the challenges. You’ve got ample reasons to feel like previous generations have failed the planet, and that all we can hope for is to slow the side into climate oblivion. If you’re feeling grim about the future, you have every right to be.

Still, humanity’s not extinct yet. We got ourselves into this mess, and it just might be possible to drag ourselves out again. Possible, but not easy.

Ultimately, systemic change is needed if we’re going to preserve the earth for our grandkids. Systemic change can be instituted from the top down — think government-enforced carbon taxes — or from the bottom up — like individuals choosing to give up red meat or start walking to work.

You can start the bottom-up process right this minute, by making a few changes to your lifestyle. Having to change your life because of negative climate externalities that you had little to do with creating is totally unfair, it’s true. Unfortunately, there’s no other choice.

Here are a few bottom-up changes you can make in your life, starting today. Luckily, most of them are cheap or free!

1. Attending climate protests

Protesting or attending a demonstration is as cost-efficient as it gets. At most, you may want a hand-made sign or a noisemaker, but your presence is all that’s required. Peaceful protest has a long history of effecting change on a grand scale, but it takes thousands of people coming together for a common cause to make things happen.

Setting up a protest yourself may be challenging, but not impossible, thanks to social media. More likely, you’ll want to take part in a few existing protests to get your sea legs. Check out this peaceful protesting guide for advice, and keep your eye on social media for protest announcements. Protesting can be a fun way to meet like-minded people while promoting the things you believe in.

(Don’t want to hit the streets? Write a letter instead! Don’t be shy in reaching out to your elected officials and letting them know what you think about the climate crisis.)

2. Picking up trash in your neighbourhood

The world’s oceans are full of plastics. So are human blood streams. You can help make your environment a little cleaner by volunteering your time to collect trash in your neighbourhood. A decent trash grabber costs about $20, as does a box of bulk garbage bags. Using them to gather waste is free!

You can join a group for the purpose (consider sites like to find folks), or go solo. You’ll help beautify your surroundings, and perhaps even convince others to think twice about littering in the future.

3. Walking, biking, or scooting to school

Depending on your commute, your location, and the time of year, you may be able to walk or ride a bike or scooter, instead of driving or taking transit. Of course, transit is great too — driving is the big issue.

Walking is free, and super good for you. Humans are a walking species, so getting your steps in can actually improve your quality of life.

Biking or scooting may have a cost associated, but you can find used ones on sites like Kijiji, or try a bike share program if your city offers it.

4. Joining a tree-planting group

Non-profits like Tree Canada exist to bring more green to our public spaces. Trees capture a ton of excess carbon from the environment, making them a beautiful way to combat climate change.

Planting trees can be tough work, but it’s rewarding. You’ll meet other people doing their part for the earth, get into good physical shape, and help your environment better protect against the changing climate. Try getting your classmates involved too — more hands make less work!

5. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle

Focusing on plant-based foods, to the exclusion of animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy, can have a major impact on global emissions. Meat alone is a huge driver of the changing climate.

You can push back by choosing healthy alternatives, like leafy greens, beans and lentils, and root veggies. Going full plant-based takes some work for most people, but you can ease yourself into it. Start a habit of meatless Mondays, or try a seven-day challenge. You’ll find lots of good advice on plant-based living online, and you’ll feel good about helping the planet with every meal you eat.

Okay, these ideas are good for anyone. Now, let’s look at a few ideas for specific groups that might better fit you:

If you’re in high school…

Now’s your chance to volunteer! Get your teachers and classmates involved to make a greater impact. You could host a fundraiser or start a club at your school focused on environmental cleanups. Or go full tilt and start a student discussion group to share ideas, and invite the occasional guest speaker! Get engaged with your community as much as you can, while looking ahead to post-secondary education.

If you’re in college or university…

Think about taking courses in environmental science or even political science to better understand our current crisis. If your program offers a co-op or internship, look for companies with good environmental track records.

You may also want to encourage divestment from fossil fuels at the administrative level. Schools across Canada are slowly moving away from oil and gas, partly because their student bodies demand it.

If you’re in grad school or beyond…

As you graduate and begin your career, you’ll face new pressures. You may want to avoid investments in fossil fuel companies, and diversify your savings or RRSP accounts in favour of climate-friendly organizations. You’ll want to speak to a financial planner about the specifics.

You could even take research into your own hands. In grad school, you may be able to submit a research proposal and earn a grant to pursue a climate topic that you’re passionate about. Speak with professors in this space if research is something that interests you.

So, is humanity doomed? Probably not entirely — but feeling like we’re out of time is perfectly understandable.

Still, we need people to get on board with small scale, individual, bottom-up actions that can make wider social changes easier. Every little act makes a difference, howsoever small. Today, April 22, is Earth Day — what better time to lace up your shoes and take action?

Together, we can push back against the practices of the past, and envision a brighter, friendlier, healthier future for all.

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