- SPIRIT BEAR YOUTH COALITION
SPIRIT BEAR YOUTH COALITION
The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition is the world’s largest youth led environmental organization with a global network that numbers in the millions and spans every province in Canada and more than 60 countries worldwide.
The goal is simple: to give a voice to the endangered white Kermode or spirit bear on British Columbia’s central coast and ensure their future by protecting the last place these bears can call home.
In 1995, the youth movement to save the spirit bear that eventually gave birth to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, was born in a middle school on the North Shore of Vancouver, BC. Then 13 years old, Simon Jackson had a passion for bears and a budding curiosity to learn more about the plight of the spirit bear. That curiosity gave way to a life-long mission to ensure that all generations would know of the spirit bear as a wild bear in a wild place and not just a legend that once was. Jackson had three clear purposes for his work to aid in the protection of the bears: to ensure that young people – the future stewards of our land – had a seat at the decision making table; to ensure that people from all walks of life and from all parts of the political spectrum could support saving the spirit bear; and to ensure that the spirit bear had a strong and distinct voice – one that would not be hindered by other issues or other political baggage. And with this vision in mind, Jackson brought three young people together in his parent’s basement – including current Chairwoman and Deputy Director Salimah Ebrahim – and together they established a unifying organization: the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.
The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition was officially incorporated in 1999 as a registered Non-Profit organization and from the start has been run by young people with a specific aim to unite youth globally in the quest to protect this rare bear’s last intact habitat. In order to engage every young person, it was decided early on that there would be no charge for membership and that all staff positions would be volunteer positions. With little need for funding, the Youth Coalition chose not to seek a charity license, allowing the organization to become the only lobby group involved with this issue. The resulting organization is different from most that exist around the world – the Youth Coalition cannot be classified as left or right on the political spectrum, but an organization that is willing to work with all decision makers at all levels to achieve the best result for the spirit bear. The Youth Coalition’s goal is framed by science, but built on economics with the belief that there are no “bad guys” within this issue and that every stakeholder concern must be addressed if a lasting agreement is to be reached. The Youth Coalition preaches not to the converted, but to the unconverted – to young people who have been to often left out of decisions that affect their future and to global citizens who have in the past shied away from environmental issues.
A 249,000 hectare wilderness conservancy for the spirit bear that includes Princess Royal Island, Pooley Island, and the mainland watersheds – Green, Khutze, and Aaltanhash – is the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition’s ecological bottom line. More than half of this proposed conservancy is being planned for protection, but the critical Green-Sheep Passage/Tolmie Option Area remains threatened. And by working with Hollywood to create THE SPIRITBEAR, the forthcoming major Hollywood animated movie, the Youth Coalition hopes to address the economic concerns of the Kitasoo First Nation to allow for the protection of this remaining watershed – key to the future of the spirit bear.
Today, the campaign to save the spirit bear is the most supported environmental issue in Canadian history and supported by more than 85% of British Columbians. The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition is backed by the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Charlotte Church and the Kevin Richardson of
The actions we take today will be our legacy to the future. The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition hopes the protection of the spirit bear will be a legacy of “absolute freedom and wildness” for all generations, for all time.