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Ocean Action Grant Stories: Building the Climate Community through Music and Dialogue

Welcome to the Ocean Action Grant Blog series! In this series we will be showcasing some of the different Ocean Action Grant projects youth have completed across Canada! The Ocean Action Grant is a microgrant that provides youth across Canada with up to $3,000 in funding to lead an individual or collaborative project that contributes to positive change for the environment.

Our first grantee feature is Paige Hunter! She is a passionate community leader in climate education and youth engagement. Her advocacy for accessible climate education took off when she became the Education Working Group lead at SFU350. She is the co-founder of the Sword Fern Collective, a hope-centred and arts-focused climate education group. Her past projects include work on climate justice and nature-based solutions with Simon Fraser University’s – Action on Climate Team (ACT), climate resilience with the BC Ministry of Forests, and ecological conservation with the Department of National Defence. She is a proud member of the Metro Vancouver Youth and Education Advisory Panel and a mentor in the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Connections. Paige recently graduated with her Bachelor of Environment degree in Resource and Environmental Management (Honours) and regularly speaks to high school and university classes about climate hope. Paige is an uninvited settler living on the unceded territories of the Kwantlen, q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), Semiahmoo, and Stó:lō nations, also known as Langley, B.C.

Ocean Action Grant Paige Hunter

The Art of Change: Chapter One – Sounds is the first in-person event that Paige wanted to put on through the Sword Fern Collective that uses the arts (music, writing, dance, theatre, photography, visual art, etc.) to help connect people with their community, the biosphere, and climate change. In her experience, climate education is often data-centric or quantitative, and while accurate data is so important for decision-making it doesn’t always resonate with the public. Despite robust data from groups like the UNFCCC, we still see harmful discourse and conspiracy theories pop up which divide communities and delay climate action. Paige wanted to create something accessible that got right into the personal connection that people have with each other, with our shared future, and with our planet. She was really fortunate to co-lead this project with Victor Yin and Erica Binder, two wonderful friends with expertise in dialogue, community-building, music organising, and arts administration.

The Art of Change: Chapter One – Sounds is the first event in the Art of Change Series that is built on the theory that the arts can tap straight into our emotional selves and spark motivation for climate action. Paige has been fortunate to have grown up playing music and attended Langley Fine Arts School, where she was surrounded by music and the arts every day and witnessed how they make us more connected and complex people. 

As a team, they talked about how the Art of Change is about how the arts can create change, but also the ‘art’ of creating the kind of change we need for our climate future.

The Art of Change: Chapter One – Sounds came about largely through the power of community. Victor and Paige created the Sword Fern Collective early in 2023 when they received a message from Erica saying that she wanted to collaborate with us on a climate and sustainability-focused concert. The three youth started project planning in September 2023, with weekly virtual meetings right up to the week of the event in February. 

In Paige’s own words, “the three of us attended plenty of boring events or concerts that leave you feeling disconnected. We really wanted to try and create an event that sparked conversation and community. We also wanted a venue, program, and format that would be unsettling and unexpected as events often get people more engaged.” 

The Art of Change: Chapter One – Sounds in Paige’s words: 

We started the evening with a cold-open from the musicians and introductions from the project leads, followed by asking the audience to sing together before the musicians performed. After the music had got people’s thoughts going, we lead straight into the dialogue portion. The dialogue led into what we called the “collective improv,” where we asked the musicians to improvise a piece of music to a silent film made up of community-sourced imagery of our favourite moments in nature. During the collective improv we also gave the audience the freedom to move around the room and write about how the music was helping them connect with each other or to climate change. 

Our intention is to provide people who are engaged in climate action a space for joy, hope, and connection, as well as to provide people who are not engaged in climate action an emotional connection to our climate future, which is often portrayed in a very bleak, isolating, and paralysing light. 

We were blown away by the response we got at the end of the evening. We took some big risks with our program because we wanted to push our guests and the musicians to be a part of the event together, rather than the transactional audience/performer/host relationship, and thankfully we had a very willing group. Opening an event by asking a group of strangers to sing with each other created a magical experience where everyone was willing to be vulnerable, and this set the tone for the rest of the evening and created some really deep discussions later on. We also hired the most wonderful string quartet who were game to try something different.

We would not have been able to put this event on without the help of Ocean Wise or the Ocean Action Grant, and we’re so grateful for their support for youth leadership across Canada.We are currently reviewing all of the notes and feedback we received and doing a qualitative data analysis, with the hope of creating a report for guests and our records. 

We’re also actively in the process of planning The Art of Change: Chapter Two – Words, which will be happening on June 28. Stay tuned on social media! (@swordfernco on Instagram or Sword Fern Collective on LinkedIn). 

Posted March 26, 2024 by Alex Leroux

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