Have the youth given up?
By Sarah Khan, Contributor
As a naive youth, I often feel I have no choice but to passively watch as our politicians run our province. Theoretically, my views should be at least somewhat reflected in our democratic state, but they aren’t always.
This September, I had the privilege of attending the youth forum for Charting BC’s Economic Future. Hosted by SFU Public Square’s Community Summit, the forum’s purpose was to engage the youth from secondary and post-secondary schools, policymakers, politicians, and other stakeholders, and to come up with solutions to social, environmental, and economic challenges.
I went into the forum feeling guilty that I didn’t actually know a lot about BC’s economy. I felt like an intruder as I helped myself to free food. However, as I began talking to other youth, I realized that most of us only had a rudimentary knowledge of economics, yet we were all driven to make a difference in our community.
Our first speaker, Matt Hern, challenged us to rethink economic growth. As a PhD lecturer on Urban Studies and Education, Hern insisted that a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) cannot measure levels of happiness among its citizens. However, western capitalism assumes that people are more prosperous—and by extension more satisfied—with more wealth, because economic growth fosters a better standard of living. Are we truly happy if we jeopardize our environment, community, and our natural resources along the way?
Hern said that prosperity and happiness lay in strengthening our communities by sharing ideas, tools, and resources in an organized way. It’s true that we don’t all need a lawn mower if individuals can borrow one from a hardware rental store or even a neighbour; but do we want to bother our neighbours with a petty favour? We should. We need to reintroduce the idea of sharing and building relations with our neighbours that goes beyond the superficial pleasantries. This idea forces us to think about saving by utilizing all the existing resources that we already have at the tips of our fingers.
Hern’s presentation was truly inspiring and revolutionary, because it forced me to look beyond the economic figures of an economy and into the purpose of economic growth. We need to rethink politics and economics, but we cannot do that if we don’t tweak the mindset behind the use of our daily necessities. And let’s not undermine the significant role the youth have to play. This forum reminded me of the importance of how our generation needs to stay civically engaged. We are the present and the future of our province; who else should decide our fate but us?