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Faces of Climate Change

Ta'Kaiya Blaney - indigenous youth leader, Tla A'min first nation

"I hope we are willing to make this inevitable transition to renewable energy, and are able to negotiate keeping in mind the people of the future, not just the profit of now."

Anyone who thinks children should be seen and not heard has clearly never met #link:http://www.takaiyablaney.com/:Ta'kaiya Blaney#. As ambassador for #link:http://nativechildrenssurvival.org/current-projects/:Native Children's Survival# she fights for the rights of minors in her indigenous #link:http://sliammonfirstnation.com/:Tla'Amin First Nation community#, and for the native children the world over. Just 14 years old, she is wise way beyond her years, and a case in point for a truly inclusive dialog on climate change solutions.

Growing up on the Salish Sea north of Vancouver, she well understands the importance of untainted land for the continuation of her rich cultural heritage. By the same token, she is all too familiar with the self-perpetuating nature of the problems that prevent such good environmental health.

"Not only are we paying the price for the repercussions of industrial activity, but we also face proposals for resource extraction on our territory," she said. "So our communities are suffering because of that extraction but also because of climate change, which is a product of it."

One upshot she describes are waters that are no longer high enough for the salmon to come in, and elders who are rendered powerless as they sit watching the fish jump up and down and die, taking an ancient heritage with them. "We are seeing that sacred practice of getting the salmon, die right in front of us." It is poised to become a tradition that only lives on in stories of old. And it would not be the first.

Such climate impacts coupled with "cycles of substance abuse, systemic racism and historic endeavor to silence indigenous people," have seen Ta'kaiya grow up amidst what she describes as a fear-based pressure to change the world. And though she is true to her cultural roots, that is one attitude she does not embrace.

"I think if you use the reference of history, every successful and lasting transition and innovation within society has been born out of inspiration, of seeing what's wrong in the world and having a bright idea about how to change it, rather than being frightened into changing it."

So she connects with other youth groups, and uses her voice. Not only to speak at events all over the world, but to sing.

"Around the age of 8 to 10, I started to see music and the arts as a viable platform for advocacy about environmental protection and indigenous rights and I began to be excited about the future."

Her eyes are filled with that excitement, as she talks about the chances we have to get ourselves out of the "terrible mess" we have created through climate change.

"We truly need to generate this shift in how we exist in the world and how we relate to our environment, and make sure we accommodate the wealth of new ideas and opportunities that will be forged by the next generation."

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