Union Gas Essay Scholarship Tamara Burgess

The future of our country and the planet relies on raising generations of well-educated and informed youth who understand the threat to our environment through climate change and are prepared to do what needs to be done.

Elliot Lake Secondary School graduate Tamara Burgess’ award-winning essay, The Role of the Education System in the Future of Energy Conservation, speaks about the “cultural paradigm shift” that needs to occur to change our daily habits and lead a more sustainable life.

And it starts in the teaching practices during the formative years of our educational system.

North Americans are among the leading consumers of energy per capital. With more populous nations reaching higher standards of living through development, energy demand and consumption are expected to rise by 50 per cent by 2030.

How they acquire and use energy will determine the future of their environmental impact on the planet.

“The Earth cannot afford a worldwide society of people who consume as much and as quickly as North Americans do,” Tamara writes. “The strain on our resources and the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere would be too much.”

The need to expand sustainable practices and increase the use of renewable resources is greater than ever, she writes.

More than 60 per cent of Canada’s energy is generated from renewable sources. But the technology is available for Canada to replace harmful energy sources, like coal, and follow in the footsteps of Norway, Costa Rica, and Uruguay and fulfil close to 100 per cent of our needs with renewables.

Canada can be a worldwide leader if Canadians pressure their government to encourage innovation and adoption of green technology to reduce this country’s environmental impact while persuading other countries to do the same.

The education system can play a huge role by involving students in energyrelated projects in an interactive and thought-provoking way that develops their interest in this area. She suggests projects such as fundraising for motion sensor lights in classrooms, installing rooftop solar panels, or planting a school garden. This allows students to see the positive impact they can make and reinforces the need to follow sustainable practices.

It provides young adults with the knowledge and skills needed to think critically about new energy-related issues that will arise through their life. Teaching and encouraging sustainable living in our schools can go a long way in influencing students to continue these actions in their daily lives.

Sustainable living means reducing an individual’s impact on the environment through more efficient use of energy, reducing the waste of resources, and conscious consumerism.

Introducing this aspect through an environmentally-focussed education, as early as kindergarten, promotes a heightened sense of environmental awareness that stays with students into their adult years and influences the household, consumer, and community decisions they make.

Tamara, 19, is starting her first year in honours biomedical science at the University of Ottawa this fall. Her goal is to attend medical school with the aim of becoming a neurologist.

“I was motivated to write this essay because I found the topic interesting in how I could use my own experiences from school and research how other schools approach the topics of the environment and energy conservation. It was also interesting for me to see where Canada’s energy comes from and how we compare on a global level.”