REM graduate reflects on making change and the power of collective action

June 06, 2023
Photo credit: Mugasha Rutega.

New resource and environmental management alumnus Brennan Strandberg-Salmon has been intrepidly standing up to advocate for the environment for almost a decade.

“We’re not going to solve climate change by staying in our comfort zone,” he says. 

Since first joining — and later leading — his high school’s environment club, Brennan has been involved with multiple sustainability initiatives and organizations. Among them is SFU350, a student-led climate advocacy group on campus.

“That’s where I felt the greatest sense of community in the climate movement,” says Brennan. “Working with other young people all trying to achieve the same thing helped me gain connections and overcome burnout and climate anxiety.” 

Passionate about the youth climate movement, Brennan also served as a student representative in SFU’s Student Sustainability Leadership Council for two years. In 2019, he joined the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation’s (BCCIC) youth-led climate change branch as a policy analyst, taking over leadership of the initiative a couple of years ago. 

Brennan also worked at BCCIC as part of SFU’s Co-op program. Over the course of his three-month placement, he researched and developed the Climate Change How-To Guide for Industry and Professional Associations. From his exposure to the business side of sustainability, he knew there was a gap in resources for associations to guide their members towards green practises and a publication spanning across professional industries would be an effective tool for driving change. 

After its publication, Brennan was invited to present the guide to the BC Professional Associations Adaptation Working Group. It also received attention outside of Canada; one year later, a group in Australia reached out for advice to develop a similar resource.

This past year has been busy for Brennan. In the fall, he spent four months studying abroad in France, where he met people from around the world and gained a global perspective of environmental issues. In May, he won a Plurilingual Prize in a 2022 Student Learning Commons writing contest for a paper he submitted on Western Redcedar Bark Harvesting, which he read at the award ceremony. Last month, he became chair of the Climate Change Committee for BC Nature. Now that he has finished school, he will also be moving from part-time work at Environment and Climate Change Canada to a full-time position with the Policy Priorities team, helping the department execute its environmental priorities. 

Reflecting on his experiences at SFU, Brennan says they have collectively helped him gain an ability to embrace uncertainty and adapt. He also learned how he could make change in many different contexts — municipal government, federal government, NGOs, grass-roots organizations and student activism.

“Crucially I got exposure to, ‘how do you actually make change, how do you be a changemaker?’ With time and effort, you can create change as a collective. That was a valuable lesson for me.”