Stories / Blog Posts / From eco-anxiety to eco-action: Maya Carr’s journey with Outward Bound Canada

From eco-anxiety to eco-action: Maya Carr’s journey with Outward Bound Canada

We know that the news about the climate crisis can be disheartening. But what if we told you there is a way to turn eco-anxiety into action? That’s where Outward Bound Canada (OBC) comes in in Maya Carr’s story, giving her the motivation and skills she needed to take action for the environment. This is her experience:

“Canada wildfire season is now the worst on record”
“Canadian mining doing serious environmental harm, the IACHR is told”
“Canada accused of putting its timber trade ahead of the global environment”

Headlines of news articles, discussions on the radio, captions on Instagram, clips on TikTok. The nail-biting issue of climate change is now part of our everyday vocabulary, but what if we turned this eco-anxiety into eco-action? OBC has a way of taking the complex issue of climate change and re-framing it as an opportunity to get involved in the outdoors. My name is Maya Carr and I know that because I participated in a six-day OBC backpacking trip in August 2021.

Participants of Maya Carr's OBC expedition carrying backpacks on a trail in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

I grew up in Calgary, AB with the Rocky Mountains close by. Having grown up in an outdoorsy family, I’ve always had a love for the outdoors. But even at a young age, I noticed how the places I visited changed year after year. Whether it was less snow on my favorite ski slopes or so much wildfire smoke in the summer that I couldn’t see across the lake from my cabin, my love for nature turned into a desire to advocate for the rapidly changing environment. In the beginning, that meant choosing a plant-based diet at age 9 – despite my beef-loving family – and writing a letter to then-Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to ban single-use plastic. By the time I got to high school, I wanted to learn and do more about environmental issues.

My wants were met when I joined an elective course called “Energy and Environmental Innovations” (EEI) in 10th grade. The classroom was awe-inspiring, with various environmental projects taking place there. The classroom lab was filled with a large greenhouse operation and potting bench, aquaponics and hydroponics systems, fish tanks for raising trout, several tool benches and power tools, chickens in the courtyard, a sage garden, bike repair, an in-class thrift store, and much more. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Through this class, I learned about an OBC backpacking trip geared toward environmentally conscious youth. The goal of this trip was for participants to complete action projects in their home communities across the province with support from the Canadian Rockies Youth Network (CRYN) in partnership with the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley.

CRYN is a high school youth-led initiative that aims to empower youth voice and provide opportunities for youth to learn from industry professionals and Indigenous knowledge keepers. Participants are supported throughout the school year to develop an action project around an issue that impacts our shared mountain space.

I look back on my Outward Bound trip as the starting point for my environmental actions. Not only did I gain technical skills in navigation, cooking, and backcountry survival, but most importantly, I was impressed with how the instructors created a community where all members felt welcomed and valued. I strive to follow their example in every group I participate in.

After this trip, I had a promise for an action project that I wanted to keep. I was inspired to create a space where other environmentally-minded youth could come together to effect change. I founded the Environmental Club at my high school. Through my recruitment tactics, 25 students joined the first meeting. As a club, we implemented a composting system at my school, held e-waste collection drives, and organized community garbage cleanups and barbecues.

After OBC, I also became an active member of CRYN. This past school year, I took on the role of director and led a team of 10 committee members who organized our conferences, volunteer opportunities, and online events. We successfully hosted the 2023 Canadian Rockies Youth Summit- Growing Impactful Voices. The goal of this summit was to bring together youth from across the Rocky Mountain region to promote youth-led environmental change. Leading up to the summit, we hosted four online workshops that prepared youth to attend the summit with a climate action project for their community in mind.

CRYN 2022 Summit participants

Approximately 38 students attended the summit, including folks from Canmore, Lacombe, Piikani Nation, Calgary, Mini Thni Nation, and Invermere. Here are some of the action projects they developed at the summit:

  • Nom-Nom Recycling – A group of youth from Canmore, AB, created a project to educate residents about waste management in their community. They raise awareness of their project on local radio in a segment called “Trash Talk.”
  • The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Eco-Club – A Calgary, AB, youth is building an accessible toolkit of resources for other students who want to start an environmental club in their school/community.
  • Supii-po’omoaksin (planting seeds) – Students from the Piikani Nation, AB, created a project to teach younger children about the environment and traditional medicine through classroom visits and activities in their greenhouse.
  • Food Security Project – A group of students from Lacombe, AB, developed a project to improve food security for students at their school by growing organic produce and building partnerships within their community to support this project.

From my experiences I learned that when young people take action, community is created and real change occurs. As long as we continue to turn our eco-anxiety into eco-action, we can switch the narrative of the news into headlines like these:

“Canada’s first hydrogen train is taking passengers”
“Tapping into the power of young people for climate action”
“$5.1M dedicated to saving wood bison in Canada”

About the author:

Maya Carr smiling near a lake in the Canadian Rocky MountainsMaya Carr (she/her) is a grade 12 student from Mohkinstis (Calgary) within Treaty 7 territory. Maya grew up camping, skiing, swimming and hiking in the Rocky Mountains, her favourite place to go is her cabin near Nakusp B.C. Her love for exploring the outdoors led her to take an Energy and Environmental Innovations course at the Career and Technology Centre in 2020. This class jump started her passion for environmental advocacy and since then she founded the Environmental Club at her high school, attended Girls on Ice and Outward Bound backpacking trips, was the recipient of the 2022 Mountain Spirit Award and has been a member of the Canadian Rockies Youth Network (CRYN) committee.
If you’d like to learn more and get involved with the Canadian Rockies Youth Network, please email or follow them on Instagram.

Love this story?

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER to receive a monthly dose of captivating content straight to your inbox. SIGN UP TODAY!