Discussion with “Eco-Warrior” Hannah Alper / by Skye Regan

Discussion with “Eco-Warrior” Hannah Alper

Two days ago I updated the Skye Regan Photography Facebook fan page to include the Flora + Fauna Collection of photographs.  This is one of my personal favorites because I when I capture these images, I am able to connect with the natural world and then am able to share its beauty with the masses.  This beauty is why I have been interested in animal and habitat conservation for many years.  I hope by sharing these images and teaching others about what we can do to make the world a better place, both for ourselves and our self-endowed wards (plants and animals) that viewers and readers will come away with something new to help the world become a better place. 

Recently I had the opportunity with one person who is also actively working to create this kind of change.  Amidst a flurry of conferences, keynotes and… oh yeah homework, eleven-year-old Hannah Alper manages to squeeze me into her hectic schedule. Why is this girl such a hot commodity? Well, while Hannah by mere appearance may seem like any other girl her own age she is actually a part of a small, but growing contingent of young people who have lent their voice to promoting sustainability, and have catalyzed change by becoming full-fledged change agents in their own right.

Among her in this cause – and who she herself has looked up to for inspiration – is Servern Suzuki; daughter of environmentalist David Suzuki, but is best known internationally from a YouTube clip entitled: “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”. In this clip, she spoke to world leaders at the U.N. at age 12, stating: "I am fighting for my future […] I am only a child and I don't have all the solutions. But I want you to realize, neither do you. You don't know how to fix the wholes in our Ozone layer. You don't know how to bring the salmon back up a dead stream. You don't know how to bring back an animal, now extinct. And you can't bring back the forest that once grew where there is now a desert. If you don't know how to fix it, please, stop breaking it.".  This speech – now twenty-two years old – still rings as true today as when the words were first spoken at the Earth Summit in 1992. It, and the words of other young change makers like, Mark & Craig Kielburger and Malala Yousafzai, has inspired change agents like Hannah.

The world and the people who reside in it are often resistant and/or apathetic when it comes to creating ecological sustainability.  Usaually, as Severn points out, it's because they "... don't know how to fix it".  Hannah explains that: “With my blog, I have recently launched an initiative called #MyYearOfAction […] helping people find something that they care about and to actually do something about it. There is a pledge on my blog that readers to become an active and global citizen.” It’s important to profile and teach emerging change leadership frameworks to a change leader who already has the voice and influence to change the future – someone who is young and passionate about the cause. Ultimately teaching Hannah these concepts now will build foundational learning that she will share with others and carry with her to adulthood.

In my discussion with Hannah I explained about a new leadership framework coming out of Harvard University that will catalyze change and promote ecological sustainability vis-à-vis change leadership within organizations. I told her that in many organizations there is a structure called the: Command Control Operating System (CCOS) – a ridged hierarchy that it is very hard to make change within. I also told her about the Emergence Operating System (EOS), which has more of a social aspect to it. Everyone is exactly on the same level and has equal input, and while the idea works for a little bit after some time motivation and vision dwindles. Instead – I explained – the new leadership framework that is emerging is called the: Integration Cycle, which takes the best elements of both of the operating systems – meaning there is a hierarchy, but everyone is involved and feels ownership in their part of the project and are determined to see success.

To put it in relational terms, I explained that in the movie: “The Trotsky” the main character, Leon is repeatedly told that he can’t make change because he’s too young and no one cares. Leon’s goal in the movie is to change the way the school system is run, and without knowing it, he actually incorporates many of the same aspects of the “Integration Cycle”. To make change within his school, and then the larger school community, Leon gets help from the other students and a local law professor and his PhD student by giving them specific roles and having a voice in the planning and execution. Because of this everyone involved feels compelled to drive the success of this mission.

Hannah understands that in order to make change you have to rely on: a clear vision, small victories, and the assistance of others. She describes this is a recent TED Talk she spoke at in Toronto, entitled: “How to Find Your Spark”, where she encourages the audience to catalyze change in whichever field they are most passionate about.

As a self-proclaimed “eco-warrior”, Hannah has been writing a blog for the past two years dedicated to ecological sustainability and animal conservation. While the blog began with these topics in mind, after noticing the power of her voice the blog evolved, and she expanded the discussion to include other issues concerning human rights. While her blog speaks to all ages, perhaps one of its most important aspects is that she also has the ear of tomorrow’s leaders – other children her own age that will learn from her experience and spread the word of how the world can become a better place for their futures. This is the kind of scaffolding the world needs to learn from itself – how it can transform from its present way of thinking, which is heavy on consumerism, and minimalist on sustainability.

With her active participation in events like Free the Children’s “We Day” – a fun free event in which only children who have made an impactful change are invited to – she empowers young people to take action by acting as agents of social change. Hannah has spoken to “…hundreds of thousands of students that are empowered to make a difference [and] have already […] changed the world whether it is hosting neighborhood cleanups or raising $10, 000 for a school in a community in a developing country such as Kenya, Ecuador and India.” Ultimately because of Hannah’s young age and the opportunities that she has been afforded by being surrounded by likeminded children, role models and change agents she had received little resistance and great motivation for her cause.

When asked what barriers she has faced, she coolly explains, “Actually, I have not really heard from someone or anything that I am too young to make a difference. When Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children, it was NOT cool to care. Marc tells stories about being shoved into lockers and they were both bullied for standing up for something they believe in, even though it could be on the other side of the world. But fast-forward almost 20 years later, it IS cool to care. Free The Children has made fun and tangible ways to take action.” She wisely notes that: “… you just have to reach out to people and try to empower them to find a cause that they can take action on […] I can only control the things and action that I do and hope to make an impact on people’s lives, including my own.”

While she is in the fortunate position of having many so-called cheerleaders who encourage her to keep going the unfortunate reality is that one day she will meet someone who tells her ‘no’. After learning about this new framework and how to deal with resistance when that day comes, Hannah will already have a response and will emerge as the change leader who will build the scaffolding that will support resistant others and change policy to save the world!

With this article, I hope that you are inspired to make a positive change in your own lives and in the lives of others.  Anyone can make a difference – all you have to do is just speak up!  Share this article with your friends and be the voice.


Follow the cause here:

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And Hannah:

Twitter - ThatHannahAlper

Web - ww.callmehannah.ca