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P.E.I. student embraces perspective-changing experiences on Arctic trip

Emma Lee Lyon, left, from Alberton and fellow Student on Ice expedition members, Olivier Ménard and Kady Goertzen in Sirmilik National Park in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut. - Emma Lee Lyon collection
Emma Lee Lyon, left, from Alberton and fellow Student on Ice expedition members, Olivier Ménard and Kady Goertzen in Sirmilik National Park in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut. - Emma Lee Lyon collection

'Eye-opening' education

ALBERTON, P.E.I. —

Emma Lee Lyon is still shaping her post-secondary education plans, but she says she’d love to find a way to combine psychology and climate education into her future studies.

The 16-year-old from Alberton recently returned from a Students on Ice expedition in the high arctic. The excursion stretched from northern Canada to Greenland. While there, Lyon, daughter of Doug and Carol Ann Lyon, said she observed how people in the north are already negatively impacted by climate change.

“We were told that one or two hunters would not come back every 12 years or so,” she said of hunters losing their lives to drowning or other mishaps. “This is from an elder. She said they’d expect one or two hunters would not come back every 12 years, but now, it’s one or two hunters every year, which is a crazy difference due to climate change, so they’re seeing the effects.
“The older generation says, ‘We won’t see the effects of climate change in our lifetime.’

But for the people up north, they are seeing it right now. They’re living it. It’s really affecting the people up there, and it is starting to affect us down here because of the storms: they’re obviously getting worse.”

Emma Lee Lyon. - Emma Lee Lyon collection
Emma Lee Lyon. - Emma Lee Lyon collection

Students on Ice expedition members, including Emma Lee Lyon of Alberton, visiting Itilleq Fjord in Qeqqata, Greenland. Emma Lee Lyon collection
Students on Ice expedition members, including Emma Lee Lyon of Alberton, visiting Itilleq Fjord in Qeqqata, Greenland. Emma Lee Lyon collection

Lyon, who is enrolled in Grade 12 classes at Westisle Composite High School, said Students on Ice organizers expressed hope participants would want to spread the word about climate change, and she admits she’s passionate about the topic. 

Carol Ann Lyon said the experience meant a lot to her daughter. 

“I just think Students on Ice has made her much more aware of things that are happening in the world,” she said. 

The Island mother marvelled at her daughter's interest in the environment and the effects of climate change. 

“She just grew up real fast all of a sudden.”

The trip was also an eye-opener on the environmental impacts of plastics. Lyon said she is now more aware of how much of it is still around despite the ban on single use carry-out bags.

“The first thing when I got home, I went to the grocery store with my Dad, and every single thing we bought was in plastic,” she observed. “Things were in plastic, in plastic, in plastic. They were, like triple-wrapped and for no reason.”

Her concerns, however, are not limited to life in the north. 

On Sept. 19, she leaves for a 17-day Habitat for Humanity build in Nepal. She went to one in Zambia two years ago.

“I feel the best way to learn about something is to fully immerse yourself in it,” she reasoned, adding that her teachers are supportive, allowing her to get caught up on her schoolwork before and after the build.

She explained the build in Zambia was for a family of six who lived in a mud hut about the size of a room in a typical house on P.E.I. The mud house did not even have a roof. 

“We hear of poverty or climate change. Being there and actually seeing it ... it really puts it into perspective,” she said.

“Having opportunities to do this really opens your eyes to everything."



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