Toxic chemicals, food insecurity, climate change – these are just three concerns in a long list of environmental issues that flood our newsfeeds and conversations. It's easy to get overwhelmed by environmental crises that seem so vast and unsolvable. What can one person possibly do to help?
Some of us ‘go big’ and devote our lives to fighting for large scale change. Some of us inevitably give up, defeated. Carly Welham, a young environmentalist from the small town of Gimli, Manitoba, personifies how connecting individuals to the small and simple efforts we can take everyday can add up to big changes.
Growing up in rural Manitoba, Carly took access to a healthy environment for granted until she felt the real impact on her health when she moved into an urban space. While studying social justice, her eyes were opened to how environmental issues and human rights issues are interconnected. It prompted Carly to begin graduate studies in public health to address the intersection of our health and our environment.
Carly is passionate about empowering others by equipping them with the tools to turn their concern for the environment into action, and finding appropriate and manageable routes for people to confront environmental issues. She embraces the idea that the best means of education is sharing knowledge and research with impacted communities, rather than confining conversations within universities and academia. As an environmental educator of high school and elementary school students, Carly informs youth of the risks of toxic chemicals in everyday products and how communities can come together to address environmental issues. Her experiences educating others how the environmental impacts our reproductive health throughout her work as a sexual health educator and birth doula also exemplifies her passion for incorporating environmentalism into everything she does.
It is this practical, accessible knowledge that Carly shares with others that helps us make environmentally healthy choices in the face of overwhelming environmental crisis. Sometimes it is the small changes that can make all the difference – and that starts with empowering people with the knowledge to make environmentally healthy decisions.
Carly recently started her own eco-friendly soap and candle company, and leads workshops on herbalism and making DIY toxic-free products. She also participated in two urban agriculture internships, at both Concordia City Farm School and the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm and Earth University in India. Acquiring the knowledge and skills to grow your own food and create your own personal care products by learning from the environmental community taught Carly the value of sharing community resources and environmental knowledge – messages that she endeavors to pass on to others as an environmental educator.
While it’s easy to feel powerless, Carly focuses on the small changes that we can all make in the food we eat, the products we use, and the causes we support. These can add up to big changes for the health of our communities and our environments. We all have the power to make environmental changes in our lives and the lives of others.
Carly’s paper “Selfies vs Sealfies: Inuit Subsistence Hunting, Food Insecurity and Animal Rights,” was selected for the International Undergraduate Award in 2014 and in “Indigenous Food Sovereignty is a Public Health Priority,” presented at the 2017 Rising Up Indigenous Studies Conference at the University of Manitoba.
Carly was a youth ambassador for the Our Canada Project, an initiative of the Learning for Sustainable Futures Foundation, which involves presenting to schools on imagining a sustainable Canada and leading classrooms in sustainability projects. She’s now a youth representative on their board of directors for the foundation, promoting a sustainable future by incorporating sustainability education into all levels of schooling.
Carly works to support sustainable food systems as a student researcher for the Real Food Challenge, which seeks to shift 20% of campus food purchasing to environmentally and socially just food systems by 2020.
This article was sponsored by Learning for a Sustainable Future. Here’s what they have to say about Carly:
Carly Welham is the youngest member of Learning for a Sustainable Future's Board of Directors. She provides an important youth perspective and voice at the board table and is working towards establishing a youth advisory group within the organization. Congratulations Carly on this amazing accomplishment!
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