As the founder and lead organizer of Our Earth Our Future, Emma-Jane has seen her movement grow from a handful of students to a massive rally. In September 2019 Emma stood in front of more than 20,000 people calling for change in the way that governments approach climate change and environmental degradation. While the numbers are impressive Emma in more concerned about opening the door.
2020 VCLA Winner of Flourishing Safe Environments: Emma-Jane Burian
Born in North Vancouver, Emma tells the story of how the Trans-Mountain pipeline went through her back yard. This meant she was exposed to activism from the very young age of four. Her parents were also active in addressing Vancouver’s issues of homelessness and inequality and this lead her to see the realm of the possible.
Her parents inspired her by ‘opening the door and then holding the door open for others’ which fostered a culture of inclusiveness and didn’t limit her exposure to the world. To Emma-Jane that is what true leadership means. She urges parents to ask their children about issues that are important to them and then support them in their endeavors.
“Never let anyone tell you that you are too young - your age or other identity doesn’t define who you are, it is your uniqueness that is of value to society and always know that you are enough”
Emma-Jane defines her success as her own journey of personal growth, not necessarily through how many followers she has gained or how many people joined her rallies. She recognizes that creating a movement has been difficult as she has faces online backlash, and others attempting to co-opt her platform. Those failures and setbacks have tempered her resolve, but never dimmed her smile.
Emma has more recently found success in waiting before responding. She relies on her friends and networks to listen to her frustrations rather than shouting back at her accusers. This practice has meant that even her hardest critics have in a way, helped her to communicate better.
To her, the pandemic has proved that people can come together to find solutions. If we can make this kind of change today, imagine what we can do for our future. Imagine how we might create a society in which everyone can thrive in balanced harmony with nature.
Emma is a member of the Victoria Mayor’s Youth Council, through which she helped organize a Day of Culture and “Meatless Mondays”. She is also a regional organizer for Climate Strike Canada.