Deven Azevedo, 2016 Finalist

Deven Azevedo, 2016 Finalist

AGE: 21
HOMETOWN: Burnaby, BC (Unceded Coast Salish Territories) 

Often times, young people feel they must choose between commitment to environmental progress or academia. Not only are there only so many hours in a day to pursue both passions, it can also be difficult to find ways in which these endeavours complement each other.

Deven, however, has created a journey for himself in which academia and activism not only cross paths, but reconnect again and again.

Upholding such a strong commitment to environmental action both through academia and volunteering is no easy task, but Deven is no stranger to perseverance and competition. Growing up, he constantly felt the urge to ‘keep up’ with his older sister’s environmental endeavours — a sibling rivalry, if you will. She constantly challenged him to become more environmentally conscious, and so he did.

It wasn’t until Deven was older that he began to make sense of everything his sister had taught him during those early years. He began to make connections between what sustainable communities should look like and what the communities around him actually did look like, such as noticing the absence of community gardens in certain neighbourhoods. Although Deven had been environmentally aware most of his life, he needed a chance to put his sister’s lessons into action.

Since then, Deven has taken a very active role in sustainability initiatives at his school, Simon Fraser University (SFU), where he has learned many more lessons. One of the most valuable was the realization that resistance to change is not permanent. Deven has found that, in a conversation as polarizing as fossil fuel divestment, it will be necessary to co-operate and effectively communicate with both extremes — parties who favour immediate divestment and others who are opposed to deviating from the status quo. He has learned the value of acting as a moderator between the progressive and conservative sides of such an issue. Deven explains why diversity in opinions and ideas is necessary even within these individual groups, “We need diversity; otherwise, it is too easy for those who don’t want to see change to deflect the issues and label those who want change as radical.”

In the future, Deven plans to continue advocating for fossil fuel divestment and to help implement new sustainability initiatives at SFU. Most of all, he wants to play a role in developing strategic sustainability planning for the university. To fulfill these goals and also advance his academic studies, Deven would like to pursue graduate work in environmental economics.

Though he may not have understood the importance of environmental sustainability when he was younger, Deven is now thankful for his family’s dedication to caring for the planet — they were largely responsible for sparking this passion. Now, Deven is using that enthusiasm to help make the world a more sustainable place.


  • Deven was elected and re-elected to the SFU Board of Governors as the sole Undergraduate Student Representative. Here, he leads the fossil fuel divestment movement. So far, his actions have aided in the university’s recent decisions to establish a Responsible Investment Committee, create a divestment policy, and increase contributions to a socially-responsible energy fund.

  • Deven serves as the Member Relations Officer for Embark Sustainability, the student-run environmental organization at SFU. He actively engages the membership on sustainability issues and identifying ways to empower students to take part in sustainable change at SFU and in the surrounding community.

  • In working towards his degree in Environmental Science, Deven was awarded a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award for his research, as well as numerous additional scholarships and awards.

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