Anaelle and Carolina: Leadership in a changing world
I wanted to speak with young women environmental leaders about their experience organizing COY 11 Montreal (a climate change conference for youth). What resulted was tons of laughter and a fascinating conversation not just on how to change the world, but also “multipotentiates,” French words with no proper translation in English, and so much more.
You have to have your own trigger, your own thing, and the day I found this out, I was like, “Ok, so if I have to work on something, I have to work on triggers in people.”
But even this, this is saying that, “Oh, I can give you triggers.” That’s not true.
My real trigger was in 2013, there were two or three months and I could really see myself changing and growing up, and the thing that really triggered me was I exercised a lot my critical spirit – l’esprit critique in French – my capacity to criticize what I read, what I see, what people tell me.
And so, I heard a lot about climate change. Since I’m an engineer – so more scientific – I really wanted to find out about the facts and what is really going to happen because I think we hear a lot of different things on the radio, on Facebook, on Twitter. And so, what is wrong and what is right? And so I developed this criticism.
I was doing a minor in sociology and I took an environmental class – just like that because I needed to take a class – and I took one and I realized that I wasn’t very conscious of environmental issues. Just because I took that class I realized a lot of things.
I started to do little things in my environment; that’s how you start doing things, like small things. I went on Facebook three, four months ago and I saw someone, and he was looking for volunteers for this COY. And I was like, “Why not?” I wanted to be in a movement.
I decided to do engineering because I realized I want to find real solutions and really apply technical knowledge, to be an expert in some ways. But I don’t think I really knew what an engineer was back then, so I consider myself really really lucky.
When you’re an engineer, you learn project management, how to speak with people, so I’m so so happy that I chose that, but I can admit that in the beginning I was sort of, “Ok, let’s do this.”
The moment that I accepted to be an engineer but also to add this thing to be in your community, to help your community, and to be both of those things, I really felt more like myself.
When I first started university, I wanted to be a psychologist, but then I was like, “Yeah I want to help people, but I want to help people on a larger scale.” So I did sociology one year, but now I’m in political science.
And why? Because I think that you need to understand all the political world if you want to make a change. I want to have a strong background in politics to be able to defend myself and say “No, you can’t do that.”
I hope [COY participants] can understand that there are solutions for them, like daily, but also that they can act really bigger if they want, and to get involved in stuff, and to like being involved, and to meet a lot of people too.
When you’re in a group of people that’s so [full of] positive energy and who want to go forward, I think you feel so strong when you’re united, when you’re together. Perhaps it’s a little bit slower, but you feel strong enough to go further.
I’m happy here with all the people because we’re all sharing in the same interests. It feels good to share something that you like with other people.
I’m really happy to see that people from high school came here, like there was also a teacher, I’m like wow it’s really nice to see your work, like I worked from, I volunteered since the month of June, so it’s been a while now, and just to be like, just to see that today’s the day, it’s really a nice feeling.
It’s weird because I really love fashion: I really love to see how people are dressed up, what shoes they chose to invest in.
It’s a weird thing about me because fashion is so about the appearance, but I think I’m expressing myself when I wear my clothes, so I think it’s also important…Not sure yet, this is one of the questions I have to [think about].
[Climate change is] not like a movement of fashion or something that we can forget. You can’t forget about it: it’s like eating, like drinking.
I don’t feel that if I’m a girl they’d say she’s doing better or worse; I don’t feel judged by this, but once, my first job, I learned later that I was chosen because I was a girl and it made me really really mad. I want to be chosen because I’m me, not because I’m a girl…
It’s funny because [I’m told] “Why are you caring about this feminist movement?” and “You’ve made a lot of progress, and yes, there’s some that has to be done, but there’re also some people who are dying because they’re hungry. Why don’t you go and help them?”
And I’m like, he’s right in some way, but we’re allowed to go up to wherever we want to go, and I think today there are a lot of barriers…
I know that being a woman in a workplace…we live in a modern society, but even here, it’s hard to have your place, it’s hard to be listened to.
At first when I became vegetarian I was like “Oh I’m vegetarian” and then I went on why I became vegetarian – the person didn’t really ask me about it – and now, I keep it quiet. But people say, “Oh, you’re vegetarian, you weren’t veggie…Do you really like kittens?” And I’m like “No, that’s not really it, it’s more the environment,” and people just don’t know a lot about it.
So when they ask you the question, the thing that’s really important for me is giving a good example. This has a lot more impact on people than just telling them about it and wanting to convince them. So I’m trying to – I’m trying at least – to be the values that I want to show to – les incarnés, to incarnate it.
My approach now is not to force them to have that conversation because it won’t work. So if I see that they have an interest and they want to keep talking about it, I’ll continue. But if I see that they’re like “Oh yeah, ok ok, and what did you do yesterday?” I’m like, “Ok, never mind.”
I have this utopic view and I have this realistic view, so if I’m being optimistic…when I was quite young I saw An Inconvenient Truth and he talked about a frog, and if you put the frog in the really really hot water, she comes back really quickly, but if the temperature goes higher like really nice and slow, well, the frog is going to [boil]. And so I think that we’re going to have a lot of events that are going to make us say “Oh ok, it’s happening.”
Like in Paris, what just happened a few weeks ago, that’s something that people are saying it’s happening, it’s our home, and that we’re being more conscious. I’m seeing that it’s not only Paris, people are posting things about Mali, about Syria, about lots of places, and it’s sad but it’s a good thing.
It will be a sad world, honestly, I don’t know if we’ll have enough water for all this population…I hope that we’ll be able to eat, to drink, to live as we’re living now, I really hope that, but at the same time we have to be realistic, and I think that we’ll have a lot of issues in 50 years, a lot of issues.
I hope it gets better but that’s why we need actions.
I see a future really driven by like individuals who change what’s around them, the community, the local scale. And then by example, your neighbor looks at you and then says, “Oh you’re doing this, I want to do this too.” I think this is going to expand…
I don’t know if you heard of the Pope François, like he talked a little bit about how he does not think our world is going in the right direction right now, and I think he’s right. And what I hope is people understand it’s not about climate change, it’s not about the war in Syria and stuff, it’s about how we just decide to live our lives today.
And we don’t talk to each other anymore and I include – I completely include – myself in this, and I’m not judgmental at all, but like there are some people in the streets there, we don’t even talk about it, and a lot of people, we go to Africa for one months, two months, we want to help the little kids right there, but no…
We have to communicate more, we have to love more, we have to take some time for our happiness, and it’s such a global thing and perhaps it’s a little unrealistic, but I think it’s bigger than just climate change and the environment.
Before organizing COY 11 Montreal, Anaelle completed a generalist engineering degree with a focus on water, energy, and environment, and she participated in “Ticket for Change,” a program where 50 young “Change Entrepreneurs” traveled across France learning about social entrepreneurship.
Carolina studies political science and was a human resources volunteer with COY 11 Montreal, working with interested volunteers and coordinating between organizers.
Interested in learning more about how to be an environmental leader? Check out my new “Eco Club” site!