By Anne Brodie
Hannah Alper was just nine when she found her calling. She launched a blog http://callmehannah.ca/ to explore and open conversations with young people about climate change. Now seventeen and a renowned activist and motivational speaker, Hannah continues to inspire others, no matter their age, to find their passion and share her growing concern for the environment. Hannah uses her voice to encourage and empower people to identify their passion and take action for a better world. Hannah joins three fellow youth activists Cooper Price, Sophia Mathur, and Charlene Rocha, in YTV’s documentary #CitizenKid, airing Friday, June 5, which happens to be United Nations World Environmental Day. I spoke with this highly inspirational girl and now feel better for the future with people like Hannah making positive change.
The reports of nature coming back under the international COVID-19 lockdown are really encouraging. Maybe people will see what is possible and participate in the environmental movement.
Yes, I definitely hope that also. Part of the opportunity with CitizenKid is to realise all the individual things we can talk about in out everyday lives and do them. Maybe not driving so much, walk or bike more and do what we can do or by seeing how beautiful nature is. Personally, I’m more appreciating nature in this free time, and it gives people the opportunity to learn about the environmental movement. They can research it and maybe use the hashtag #earthcomesfirst. Humans have the power, a choice in everything we do. The choice to bring more negativity on the planet or we have the opportunity to do something positive. Its so much better for you and the earth, and the present. We are all citizens of the earth so our response is to come together and do everything we can to take care of it and create positive change.
There is so much to admire about you and your pro-active life. But what I think I admire most is that you are constantly learning.
The world is such an incredible place and not one of us knows everything about it. If I’m passionate about something, I learn more. My parents were a huge part of it. My father took me to a blogging workshop when I was nine, I tagged along. And my parents and I had a big talk about it. I couldn’t write about myself or how much I loved Justin Bieber, I could just write about something I was passionate about. We talked it through. What do you love and what do you care about and that was making change in the world. I love animals, I used to love going to the zoo, my dog’s sitting by me now. I learned about issues like deforestation, and it opened that door for me to learn and keep me motivated and grounded. I kept the door open because I was passionate. I love learning about it there is so much to learn and you can only do something about an issue if you know about it and once you know about it, you can do something about it.
And you’re teaching through all your platforms, to pass along your knowledge and positivity. Do you feel the impact you’ve had on people?
My role models have played such a huge part of my journey, my parents, Craig Kielburger, David Suzuki, they’ve all guided my journey. I interviewed Malala Yousafzai (a Pakistani Pashtun activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate). And CitizenKid shines a light on my message but everyone can change the world, make it a better place. Its been incredible for me, tackling the issues. I hope everyone who watches the show feels like they can do something. They can read teaching resources, pick up litter, learn, join a community organisation or plant seedlings or go to a summit.
We join you in your concerns for the earth, we try to live green and frugal lives. But we have to stay focused and conscious, how?
My mum sent me a post “We may never reach the zero in zero waste but there is no reason to take zero action”. The important thing is the environment and climate change; they’re big issues and daunting and overwhelming, but little things make a difference. Things truly add up. For someone to make a difference, all they have to do is start. You can do things like write to local reps about what is important to you, the environment, and help our present and future, so my kids and grandkids have a better world. That’s such a big part of it. It’s scary to tackle something bigger than ourselves but if we work together, we can tangibly make a difference. You can be motivated by CitizenKid; we connect with people from all sides of the issues, indigenous leaders, politicians, youth activists. We share our stories. I’m just one person but you can raise your hand.
What was it like shooting CitizenKid?
It was six weeks, it was put together so fast, our parents and I don’t take vacations, but went to Cuba. We got a call from White Pine Productions and they brought us this idea, a documentary about making a difference. There’s a series of books out for kids about the environment. I really would have loved when I started my blog to have had that. They said they were making a series with these three and I said yes because that’s something I would have wanted. When I was nine I didn’t know where to look. There were adults, even older than adults, like David Suzuki. Craig was twelve when he began Free the Children which is now We.
You spoke 37 times at WE rallies and did a Ted Talk!
Yes. I think something is different, I’ve used so many different platforms and this doc is a new one. What I love most is that its completely unscripted, they don’t put words in your mouth. Cooper and I travelled to Ottawa for a climate summit and it was incredible. We spoke to politicians, leaders, businesspeople. I learned so much with the other activists; I don’t usually connect with them, especially those who are my age. There were so many incredible moments off-camera and on-camera about being activists and being a teenager and tackling those obstacles. I don’t get to see activists because I don’t live near anyone. But there is social media. When I was nine there was no social media and now it has amplified so much.
We’re living in a unique time. You can speak to people on the left and the right and you can share your message. It’s an incredible thing, you can use social media to change the world and make a difference. You can shine a light on climate change. The Parkland #MarchforOurLives movement is so inspiring. I was in an activist funk and wasn’t feeling motivated and they got me right out of that. Its truly people like that, the young people making me want to be involved. The world is a good place world and it is in good hands.
There’s a picture on your Instagram of you with Gloria Steinem. You remind me of her, young, passionate, a groundbreaker, and idealist. (Candace- i emailed you the picture)
Gloria Steinem invited me to be on a panel with her, it was a women’s’ rights event, a peoples’ rights event. It was hosted by the NDP but was postponed for a year. My parents nearly dropped to the floor when I told them! I was telling her she was so inspiring. I read her book before. It felt like it came full circle. Here’s this woman who truly led the women’s rights and the feminist movement, who paved the path for us in the next generations, in order to protect the future.
When there seems to be so much bad news, how do you stay motivated?
It’s impossible not to get down. You turn on the news and you see the numbers, not good numbers and it’s hard to see the light sometimes. Not just with politics, but with the environment; it’s a daunting issue and you can feel so helpless. The Australian wildfires was such a time of despair. Honestly, I stay motivated by sharing the good news on the world. Horrible things and people are out there, but there are good people doing good. I like to help the helpers. That’s what I try to do, amplify the good, stay positive but realistic. Be the change, help, there is change that needs to be made.