Mirella Ramsay, founder of the Mirella Project. (Kayleigh Seibel photo)

Salmon Arm teen takes enthusiastic action on climate change

Mirella Project inspires others to create a town, then world, with a sustainable future

Despite the enormity of the task she has chosen, Mirella Ramsay is peppy, upbeat and optimistic.

Her enthusiasm is contagious, her outlining of plans punctuated with smiles and laughter.

Ramsay, 18, is taking on climate change.

But her enthusiasm is not born of naiveté.

“Rather than, ‘Hey everybody we’re doomed, good luck,’ why not, ‘Hey everybody we can do something to fix the problem,’” she says.

Her plans were sparked during her first semester of university studies. Before class each day, her geography teacher would provide tidbits of information on what was going on in the world environmentally.

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Sixty per cent of wildlife numbers decreasing. Carbon dioxide levels rising. Use of solar panels in other countries successful.

The ratio was about 80/20 good news to bad.

Yet outside the classroom, the big news would be what Donald Trump was saying, not that wildlife are disappearing.

As she was driving home one night listening to a podcast about environmentalists doing all kinds of good work but not able to make massive change, she made a decision.

Mirella decided to become an environmental scientist.

But the idea of running her own business soon eclipsed it, one that would incorporate her desire “to be part of the solution, not adding to the problem.”

Soon the idea to have a group dedicated to a specific issue with a set amount of time to come up with a course of action was born. It would be a two-year plan that would include a goal, a research period and an action period.

“Rather than researching for four years and then doing something, it would take six months to a year to start… So what we’ll start seeing is real change, rather than talking about it.”

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In January, Mirella presented her idea to her advisor, Jenny Carter. Carter told her it’s a great idea but she would have to write something down. Mirella did just that, creating a blueprint for the work. Carter dubbed it the Mirella Project, a moniker that’s stuck.

“We want to re-brand climate change – let kids my age know it’s not impossible to solve. Well it’s a lot of work but we’ll be working together.”

Tess Streicker is her co-founder. “I approached her with the idea – she’s like, yeah Mirella, you’re not insane…”

Mirella’s enthusiasm has already ignited a passion in others.

“We have a team of 11 girls absolutely on fire to do this work,” she says, adding one boy just joined them. Members of the youth-led team range from 16 to 20 years.

They are forming seven different groups, each focused on a two-year plan. The topics are: education; proper waste management; plastics; food; renewable energy; industry and habitat.

They’re also open to working with other non profits.

“If someone is doing the same thing, like Shuswap Solar, we’re not going to just do it on our own.”

Regarding education, Mirella says they’ll be going into schools, creating programs for educating youth – how they’re able to save the environment, as well as helping schools reduce their waste and invest in more sustainable futures.

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She says talking to kids at a younger level, providing options, will be a focus.

She points out that an 11-year-old messaged her.

“I don’t want the world to be a flaming ball of fire – will you come and talk to my class,” was the message she recounts. “People want a solution but don’t know where to go.”

Mirella says inspiring just one person to act by the Mirella Project means so much to her.

“I want little boys and girls to look up and say, ‘oh, that can be me.’”

She gave a two-minute speech to the Rotary Club that was met with a standing ovation.

Mirella points out that small actions can make a difference over the long term.

“I made it my claim to fame that I will only have a drink if I have own mug with me. I want to hold myself accountable… When in doubt, go without.

“I haven’t had a latte a lot of days in a row because I forgot my mug. Do I look famished?” she asks, smiling.

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On Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Mirella Project will hold a Clothing Shop and Swap at the First United Church GreenSpace, where people will bring in their clothing to shop or sell. For more information, go to www.themirellaproject.com or email: themirellaproject@gmail.com.

In the fall, the team plans to hold a six-week course on how to live ‘zero waste.’

Mirella says her aim is to have Salmon Arm become an “eco-town,” practices that could then be taken around the world.

Her dedication to the project is unwavering.

“I think what we’re doing, I was put on this earth to do,” she says.

“Our entire goal is to build community through saving the environment. We want to formulate relationships over an issue that requires a lot of attention and really matters.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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Members of the Mirella Project team: photographer Kayleigh Seibel and Maddie Burt, Eva Mosher and Caitlin Quilty, Avery Hanson, Izzy Schaffer and Jade Lutz, co-founder Tess Streicker and founder Mirella Ramsay, Robin Cannon-Milne and Noelle Ramsay. (Kayleigh Seibel photo)

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