Oct. 21 - 23, 2010
Going beneath the surface and discovering a disaster
nown by many as the‘Armageddon’ reporter,Alanna Mitchell has spent years as a journalist researching and writing about some of the mostdire situations plaguing humanity and threatening the earth’s ability to function. Carrying with her acuriosity that she best describes asan “intense need to understand how things work,” Mitchell felt compelledto investigate the conditions of the “true lungs of the earth” or theplanet’s global oceans. During hertalk that was hosted at ArtisanaleCafé on Oct. 18 by the School of Environmental Sciences and theBookshelf, Mitchell discussed hernewest book entitled
Sea Sick: Te Global Ocean in Crisis.
Once one discovers the life-sustaining functions that are carriedout by the world’s largest bodies of water, it’s nearly impossible not toKELSEY RIDEOU
Alanna Mitchell comesto Guelph to discussher internationally acclaimed book on thecrisis in the global ocean
Understanding our youth who sleep without homes
etting through university isno easy task. It’s no doubtthat many students incur agreat deal of stress from the pressureof exams, and often endure waves of anxiety when it comes to ensuringtheir tuition is paid for and theircheques for rent went through. But what if students had to managecompleting a degree without aroof to sleep under at night? On Tursday, Oct. 14, a diverse groupof people came together to discussthe present housing needs for at-risk youth in Guelph and WellingtonCounty. Students, social workers,corporate representatives, and youth themselves shared in theirexperiences and spent part of the day coming up with creative solutions toproviding adequate housing servicesfor youth who ﬁnd themselves outon the streets.Debbie Bentley-Lauzon, a U of G alumnus, who currently works asthe Executive Director of WyndhamHouse. Te local organization thatprovides people aged 16 to 21 with various support services including ashort term overnight shelter facility KELSEY RIDEOU
Wellington-GuelphYouth Housing Forumenables discussionabout poverty,homelessness andhousing for youth
pay attention to Mitchell’s work.Te ocean covers seven-tenthsof the earth’s surface and makes upfor 99 per cent of the planet’s livingspace. Life on land is inextricably dependent on the chemistry andlife of the ocean. Plankton, whichare tiny, microscopic organisms thatprovide an essential source of foodfor ocean life, produce half of the world’s oxygen. Te ocean controlsthe temperature,climate, and carbonand oxygen cycles of the planet. Withoutthe oceans, life as weknow it would cease toexist. And yet Mitchellexplained how humanshave been treatingthe global ocean (allof the world’s oceanscombined) as adumping ground. Tere have beenthree major changes inthe global ocean thatMitchell has brought tothe public’s attention. Tese changes includean increase in acidity,a decrease in oxygenand an increase in temperature. Itmay be diﬃcult to imagine whatthese kinds of changes translate into,but Mitchell provided some vividillustrations. For example, a decreaseof oxygen has caused over 400 deadzones, areas in the ocean where thereis virtually no oxygen and barely any life. Mitchell traveled to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone that lasts17,000 square kilometers across thesea ﬂoor. Te three major changesin the global ocean have resultedfrom vast amounts of carbon beingabsorbed due to modern industrialdevelopment.As Mitchell captivated theaudience with her research andstunning facts about the ocean’sfuture, feelings of frustration andeven sadness appeared to envelopthe crowd of attentive listeners.Mitchell explained how diﬃcult it was to complete the book, describinghow she had at one point becomeclinically depressed and unable to getout of bed for a month. Eventually,she awoke from a state of paralyzinghelplessness to one of profoundhopefulness. Te mental shifthappened when she had an epiphany after plunging 3,000 ft underwaterin a tiny submersible to see into thedepths of the ocean that no one hadever seen before. While observinga vibrant dance of mysterious life within the darkness found at theocean ﬂoor, Mitchell discovered oneintegral message, that “you simply must choose hope.” She realized thenthat guilt is not good for anythingexcept for being unproductive. osolve issues as stark as the state of theglobal ocean, it’s our positive energy and open-minded attitudes thatdesperately need to be harnessed if eﬀective, collaborative action is everto take place. Just before the evening came toa close, Mitchell was asked whatcould be done from an individualstandpoint. Rather than tellingpeople what it is they should do,Mitchell surprised the audienceby insisting that those who arepassionate about the crisis in theglobal ocean turn inwards and beginto better understand themselves if they truly want to ﬁnd the answersthat will guide them into being anintegral part of a resolution.“It has to do with not having aprescription,” said Mitchell. “I know people would love to have a list of things that they can do...but I think that people here, everybody in thisroom has a speciﬁc gift to bring tothis, a speciﬁc set of skills that he orshe could bring to this issue…Muchmore than tell you what I think youshould do, I want to ask you what you think you should do. I hope youhave sleepless nights worrying about what you should do, and then I hope you do something.”as well as a long term overnightresidence, Bentley-Lauzon spokeabout the issue of poverty andhomelessness amongst youth in thelocal context of Guelph.“Tere’s lots of diﬀerent pathwaysto youth homelessness, so a lot of the time it’s family breakdown andthey just can’t get along with theirparents,” said Bentley-Lauzon.“Tere’s mental illness. Tere areaddictions. Tere are lots of struggles.Poverty is an issue. Unstable housing. Youth will surf on couches and hangout with friends for a bit and thenthey’ll end up on our doorstep.” When students step outside theconﬁnes of the university campusand begin to explore Guelph a littlemore freely, it becomes quite apparentthat there exists a great disparity inincome and quality of life within thecity’s youth demographic. Perhaps you’ve found yourself walking afterclass through downtown and beginto feel perplexed by that feeling of uncertainty when seeing someone who is visibly homeless. Should you give away your spare change?Or should you just pass themby? Bentley-Lauzon encouragedstudents to inform themselves aboutthe services that exist in Guelph sothey can at least educate those whomay need it the most.“When I see someone downtown who needs something, I know the services so I can say, ‘I know there’s a youth centre on DouglasStreet…they have hot coﬀee andsometimes there will be a hot mealand there will be someone to talk to. You should see if they can help you. Just knowing the services thatare available and being able to ask if someone needs something can bebeneﬁcial for others.”Laura-May Culver, another U of G alumnus and social worker as wellas Consultant and Counselor withthe Upper Grand District SchoolBoard in Ontario, encouragedstudents to become active in issuessurrounding youth and poverty by initially understanding the place in which they come from.“In our education system,generally anybody who makes it touniversity is privileged, because they went through a system that’s stillset up for the privileged few,” sheexplained. “So if you’re graduatingfrom university, unless you dideverything in your power to make itthere and you’re a rarity, you’re likely coming from a very privileged place.So know your privilege and know yourself. Know where your privilegecomes from, be honest and then use your voice.”Bentley-Lauzon commendedstudents for developing campaignsand initiatives to bring to light someof the issues facing at-risk youth inthe local community. Coming upis ‘rick-or-Eat,’ a campaign thatinvites students to better understandthe issue of hunger within Guelph.Students participating in rick-or-Eat will go door to door in the early evening of Halloween to collectfood for the Guelph Food Bank. Te event will raise awarenessregarding the 20,000 people whoare presently at risk of hunger inGuelph, 25 per cent of them beingunder the age of 15.If you’re unable to make it out tothis event, maybe try implementingBentley-Lauzon’s simple advice, andencourage yourself to react withpositivity when you confront youthin our community who’ve beenforced to enter homelessness at sucha young age.“It doesn’t cost you anythingto be kind and sometimes it canmake a world of diﬀerence tosomebody who’s out there, at 16or 17 on the streets.”
Alanna Mitchell presented a lecture on her bestselling book,
, written to spreadawareness about the crisis in the global ocean.
Te Youth Housing Forum brought together members of the community to discuss housing needs for at-risk and homeless youth.