Looking for ways to get active in your area? WILD Outside is a conservation-based program for youth organised by the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Teens aged 15-18 plan and engage in service projects, fun activities, and leadership experiences. Enrollment and participation are completely free, and most events take place on the weekends or in the evening.
I began participating in WILD Outside in July, after a friend of mine recommended the program. The first event I attended was a whale watching trip. We met in a park for some leadership games and icebreakers, and then prepared to set off with Wild Whales, a whale-watching company in Granville Island.
I had never been whale watching before, and got to see Vancouver from an entirely new vantage point. We saw an orca family coming up for air and sea lions relaxing on a buoy. I left with a new perspective on interacting with marine life. Responsible whale-watching companies collect important data on the patterns and travel of local whales, and have detailed knowledge of their life histories.
Since then I have worked on a shoreline cleanup in Surrey, walked around Camosun Bog and learned about its ecology and restoration, and removed English ivy, an invasive species, from Delta’s Cougar Creek. Each event, many of which are organized by the participants, is well-thought out and informative. Everyone I have met is kind and welcoming, and makes every event a memorable experience.
Action is a main component of the program. Getting outside and working directly in communities, participants have a positive impact on the environment. Mitchell Sattler is a leadership specialist for WILD Outside Vancouver, and a wonderful leader at events. He spoke about his experience working with the program.
1. How do you think youth-focused programs like WILD Outside will shape the future of conservation?
This might sound cliché, but it is true – youth are the future! Our mission at WILD Outside is to demonstrate the power of youth in action. As a team, we believe that if we empower youth to spend more time outdoors and take direct action in conservation initiatives, they will be equipped with the skills and the drive to make real positive changes now, and in the future.
2. What have you noticed or been inspired by during your experience as a leadership specialist with WILD Outside?
I am inspired by the WILD Outside youth every single day. One thing that really stands out to me is the passion that young people have for conservation. We can run events late at night on a weekday, or in the middle of a busy weekend and youth will still show up because they have such strong enthusiasm for conservation and the outdoors, coupled with a desire to make the world they live in a better place. Just seeing the dedication from the WILD Outside youth has helped further ignite my own passion for conservation and it really gives me hope for what is to come with all these amazing young people ready to tackle the challenges that face our world!
3. Do you have any advice for young people in the Lower Mainland who are interested in environmental leadership?
In our society, we often have the mindset that the adults are the ones who make all the important decisions and that they are the ones who have control. In reality, young people have so much power and sway in our society. If you are ever feeling that your voice doesn’t matter or that no one will listen to you because of your age, remember, that is not the case! Everyone has the potential to have a HUGE positive impact on their cities and neighbourhoods whether it’s through organizing a shoreline cleanup or educating your friends and family about important conservation issues. The field of conservation has space for leaders of all ages. Through WILD Outside I’ve seen youth accomplish amazing things from planting over 400 native pollinator plants across the entire Lower Mainland to picking up hundreds of pounds of garbage left behind in public parks. If you’re ever doubting whether you can be an environmental leader because of your age, remember that age doesn’t determine if you’re a leader, your actions do – so go for it and get involved in environmental leadership in your community.
I want to say thank you to Mitchell for answering my questions! As a participant in WILD Outside, I feel completely that we are creating positive change in our local environment. The program has helped me see the undeniable potential for a better future.