Queen’s student named one of top 25 environmentalists under 25

Sebastien Molgat recognized for expanding reach of young environmental advocates

Molgat was recognized for his work as the founding chair of the Arctic Youth Network (AYN).
Sebastien Molgat

When The Starfish recently recognized 25 young leaders as “Canada’s Top Environmentalists Under 25,” Queen’s student Sebastien Molgat, ArtSci ’20, was on the list. 

The list, released annually since 2011, highlights individuals who inspire and lead environmental change in their communities across Canada. 

Molgat was recognized for his work as the founding chair of the Arctic Youth Network (AYN), an international youth-driven Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that cultivates relationships between young people and opportunities to engage in creating sustainable and equitable environmental change in the Arctic. 

“[W]hat happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. It’s warming at almost two times the rate of the rest of the world, which means that the environmental effects that are being felt there wash over to the rest of the world,” Molgat told The Journal

After growing up in Wakefield, Quebec, Molgat said his community’s history of environmental advocacy played a large role in inspiring his current endeavours.

“We identified that there was a bit of a gap in the advocacy world […] [advocates] were often operating in their own bubbles and not seeing that the issues they were facing, other people were facing elsewhere,” he said. 

Molgat met with a group of young leaders in 2018 at the Arctic Youth Summit in Rovaniemi, Finland. From there, his group decided to come together to form the AYN as a way to connect and support young people making changes in the Arctic. 

The AYN provides more than 350 members with the resources, opportunities, and experiences to act on the issues critical to their communities. The AYN uses a Facebook group, where membership is open to anyone who’s interested in getting involved.  

Molgat also stressed the importance of working with Indigenous youth and other marginalized voices when changing the way humans treat the environment.

This principle keeps cultural equity central to AYN’s mission, as it ensures individuals who speak for the Arctic have access to the resources they need to act on local issues. 

In recognition of his own privilege and status as an ally, Molgat said he feels strongly about putting the Arctic’s culture and environmental issues first, rather than imposing his own ideas upon them. 

Having just completed his degree in political studies, Molgat credited the field of study for allowing him to learn more about the global climate, economics, and Indigenous rights. 

“Politics is a great [field of study] for helping you understand how the world works,” he said.

One of the earliest activities that helped the AYN gain recognition for its work in 2018 was a series of webinars, hosted by members from all eight Arctic states—Canada, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden—informing individuals across the north and outside the Arctic about the realities of the climate crisis.   

The AYN also organized breakout sessions at the Arctic Circle Assembly in 2019, bringing youth from across the Arctic to present to politicians, policymakers, and organizations. 

“We spoke about environmental issues, and how media and economic interests can contribute to making positive change,” Molgat said.

Throughout the pandemic, Molgat said the AYN has been working on maintaining its momentum by planning events and sessions for its network. Currently, it’s developing another online webinar series to reach individuals remotely. 

Many of the events the Network members had planned to attend, including the AYN’s collaborative event with the University of the Arctic and the United Nations Oceans Conference, are being rescheduled because of the COVID-19 crisis.  

Molgat also encouraged young people to take on leadership roles.

“[A]nyone can be a leader,” he said. “If you see something that you want to change, then you can. It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there.” 

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