Sitting across from Kate Brennan I am struck by a memory from nine years ago when I was sitting across from her dad, Casey Brennan for the exact same purpose. Now, putting this piece together I’ve also discovered that this is the first time two members of a family have been Feature Residents and what is really telling is that both Casey and Kate are featured in April, our annual GREEN Issue. Like father, like daughter they (should) say.
The Brennan’s moved back to Fernie when Kate was just two months old. “My parents had lived here as ski instructors,” she tells me. “They then taught English around the world and moved to Victoria, where my dad got his masters degree.”
Kate really loved growing up in Fernie. “The sense of community, being able to play outside with friends or to go downtown on my own,” she says adding that it felt safe. While Kate enjoys all of the recreational opportunities living in Fernie provides, specifically mountain biking and skiing, she also is a dedicated dancer, pianist, and member of the high school band.
Not surprisingly, she was raised being conscious of the environment and how her actions have an impact. “We always tried to walk a lot, do little things like turning off the lights, buying energy-efficient light bulbs, being conscious of what we were and weren’t recycling, composting, and conserving as much as possible.”
In elementary school, Wildsight taught a program to the grade six class called Beyond Recycling. It helped educate youth on how our actions have a large-scale impact. “When we were younger, the focus was on how we can personally change,” Kate says. Now she feels like there is still this focus but also a shift towards how governments and corporations can and should change.
In September 2019, more than 6.6 million youth participated in a Global Climate Strike, inspired by the activism of Greta Thunberg who began the movement #FridaysForFuture. Kate and many of her classmates at FSS recognized the importance of these strikes and increasing awareness and decided to be a part of it.
“Students and members of the community with be participating in a Climate Strike on Friday, September 27th at 11am, starting at Fernie Secondary School and marching down 2nd Avenue to City Hall.
Youth at Fernie Secondary School have been inspired by the global Fridays for Future movement and want to increase awareness around the severity of the climate crisis. We wish to highlight the need for significant climate action expected by youth in our community. We hope to demonstrate our frustration with the lack of action at the appropriate scale shown by political and economic leaders surrounding the climate crisis. While we recognize the city has taken some action in the past surrounding the climate crisis we believe there is a huge opportunity waiting for your leadership. The support, knowledge, and expertise in this community can be harnessed to make real change in the time scale that this crisis demands.”
This first strike and the second strike, held November 29, 2019, were in line with the international strikes, but as the March date was in the middle of spring break they moved it to March 6, 2020.
“The response has been super positive,” Kate says. “Teachers, friends, and community members have been supportive.” But she also shares that she has faced negative comments online. “Not one of them has shown up to a strike, and I’m open to having a conversation.”
And local government? Councillor Kevin McIsaac met them at City Hall at the first strike and addressed the youth. “And Morgan Pulsifer has been super supportive,” she adds “But he is the only councillor who I have spoken to other than (Mayor) Ange Qualizza. I feel like we’re being heard, but there’s a lot of ‘there’s nothing we can do’ response to the things we are asking for, or ‘we need more time.’ Maybe our requests aren’t possible or reasonable which I understand… I’m not in local government. But other towns surrounding ours have been able to make these changes so ours can too.”
The next strike is being organized for April 22, 2020 (Earth Day) at 1pm.
Graduating this June, Kate is looking to the future which for her includes attending University with her eyes set on being a doctor… but she also plans to continue being a voice for climate change. “ I will be in a bigger centre, and there will be infrastructure there for people who have done similar things. I would love to be involved in anything that helps with the climate crisis in future.” As for the continuation of Climate Strikes in Fernie, Kate is confident that there are many students keen to keep this momentum going. Follow @fernieclimatestrikes on Instagram to stay informed. Everyone is welcome to these events.
1. When did you first arrive in the Valley and what brought you here? December 2002, and my parents brought me here because I was a baby.
2. Who did you first meet? I had a baby-sitter when I was young, Kelly Proctor, who other than my parents I spent the most time with when I was young.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie? I think just community and love.. my parents and their close family and friends have created a sense of love here
4. What keeps you here? I guess my family, they live here so I don’t have a choice but it’s a really amazing community and I definitely don’t want to leave forever.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie pastime? I really love skiing, and in the summer I love hiking.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why? I really love the spring, it’s quiet but everything looks so beautiful and it feels so alive.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years? I see a more sustainable community, a more inclusive community towards the idea of youth. They definitely have a lot to say.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? I get up and get ready for school every morning, and I really like eating breakfast. It’s important to me, to start on a positive note spending time with my family.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. I love baking.
10. Quote to live by: Empowered women empower women.