In March 2021, Cody Kelso and his mother walked from Gibsons to Powell River to raise awareness about climate change. Here is our in-depth interview with the young leader on his biggest challenges, inspirations, and thoughts for the future.
SCCA: Congratulations, Cody, for exceeding your goal of raising $20,000 for a solar roof on the Sunshine Coast SPCA building and $10,000 for the British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association. What are some of your most memorable moments from the campaign?
Cody: When we were in Powell River, a mail carrier saw us walking and had read about what we were doing. He went home, grabbed a bag of change and found us again and gave us the money. Though not a lot of money, it was so amazing that he took the time to go and get us the money and bring it to us. Every little bit helps. Also, the number of people who sponsored us along our way to make the walk happen, with them saying, “I want to do this for you because I think that what you are doing is really cool”.
SCCA: Walking approximately 115 kilometres from Gibsons to Powell River in just four days is an impressive achievement. What training did you do to prepare for the challenge?
Cody: We did practice walks, with our biggest one being 21km. We started our practice walks in January and we did them every weekend leading up to the walk.
SCCA: You and your mother, Megan, both have a history of community service. What other events or organizations have you helped to support in the past?
Cody: At the age of 8, I did a food drive in Tuwanek to help the local food bank, raising funds and gathering canned goods. I then moved on to a garage sale where I asked people to either donate or buy some of my things for the Sunshine Coast Wildlife Organization. The most recent (other than our walk) was raising over $300 for wolverines through Earth Rangers.
SCCA: Terry Fox has been mentioned as one of your role models. What were some of his qualities that you admire?
Cody: I admire the fact that Terry Fox never gave up and he had an undefeatable spirit.
SCCA: The money you raised will help to bring the “Cool It” climate leadership training program to the schools on the Sunshine Coast. Why do you think that students should get involved?
Cody: Students should be involved because the younger you are when you learn about climate change, the more time you will have to make changes in your life to help the planet for the better. Adults can make changes but they may have less of an impact because they are older and just starting to make the changes.
SCCA: “Cool It” challenges students and their families to reduce their carbon footprint. In your opinion, what are some of the best ways of doing this?
Cody: One of the big things I do is wear hand-me-downs for clothing. I enjoy wearing the clothes my cousins once wore and know that by not buying all new clothes that I am making less of a carbon footprint. I try not to have single use plastic around. This helps keep it out of the landfill and helps keep the oceans clean. I also like to bike/walk to school from my nana’s house (my house is a bit too far for this). This helps because my mom or dad do not have to drive as far to get me.
SCCA: Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has been a leading climate activist. Is there anything that you have learned from her?
Cody: I have learned that by speaking out we can make a difference. I did this walk and through the paper and social media have managed to speak out about making a change and a change has happened.
SCCA: During your campaign, how much encouragement did you receive from your peers? Do you feel that many of them share your concerns about animals and the environment?
Cody: I received lots of encouragement from students in my class, though my closer friends thought it would be easy to do so they did not encourage me as much. They do care about these subjects but I am not sure they would have done what I did. They all have things they care about in the world. For example, I have one friend who is big on feminism. They care about the environment and animals but it might not be their number one thing.
SCCA: Have there been any follow-up activities for you to attend to since the walk ended?
Cody: I attended an SPCA camp where I learned about how to train animals and what is good for certain animals and what is not. I was also given a book by Naomi Klein called “How to Change Everything”. I was able to attend a Zoom meeting where she spoke about her book and included two girls who are activists concerned about climate change.
SCCA: What are you looking forward to about serving as the youth representative on the board of the Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association?
Cody: Being a member gives me a chance to come up with new ideas to help other organizations with fundraising for their solar panels.
SCCA: The Sunshine Coast has a lot of biodiversity. What are some species you enjoy the most?
Cody: I really enjoy red snappers, my favorite fish. I love seals, my favorite mammal. I just want to go up and hug them. And I love mallards and oyster catchers.
SCCA: The motto that you created with Megan during the walk was “Believe. Do. Achieve.” If you had the chance to change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Cody: I would love for everyone to be accepted for who they are and for diversity to be everywhere.