Emilie Novaczek is Going to Change The World
By Alexandra Esty -October 28th, 2011
When Emilie Novacezk was in the first grade, “and maybe 45 pounds”, her family moved from Prince Edward Island to Indonesia while her Mom worked on a marine biology research project.
They lived near a river where the neighbourhood kids often met to splash around. One afternoon, a group of children huddled at the edge of the water—they had caught an unlucky little turtle, and there was a great debate taking place. Was this little critter a plaything or food? Neither, in Emilie’s six-year-old opinion. She marched down to the river, elbows out (as her parents tell it), and demanded that the older kids hand it over. “Mom has a picture of me, furious, marching back towards our house with this little bucket…elbows still out,” she laughed, “I took the poor guy back down to the river later that night and let him go.”
Two things are immediately clear when listening to Emilie speak about her work. First, that she is one busy lady. Second, that she loves what she does.
It is not Emilie’s physical presence, but her enthusiasm that fills any room she enters. Though she’s only 5”, being small has clearly never held this girl back from anything. And her fascination with nature hasn’t faded with time.
A fourth-year student about to complete her combined honours in Sustainability and Biology, Novaczek’s textbooks have seen some interesting landscapes. Last winter she had the privilege of representing Canada at COP 16, the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Emilie spent three weeks there as a Canadian youth delegate, alternating between workshops with other international youth and posing questions at briefings. Days inside the conference centre were also spent presenting intervention speeches— critiques prepared by the youth on the progress of the meetings and negotiations.
“Being there as a Canadian representative was just really, really frustrating,” she explained. “It was a huge realization of Canada’s international status. We’re not leaders. We’re hardly taken seriously, especially when we’re talking about climate change.”
While Novaczek doesn’t hesitate to point out the weaknesses in our country’s approach to climate change, she continues to push for progress. She’ll be attending those meetings again this winter in Durban, South Africa. Six of the 28 Canadian youth delegates are from the Halifax, including King’s own James Hutt.
In her characteristically non-stop fashion, Novaczek returned from Cancun in December 2010 and then spent the following semester abroad, studying marine biology and climatology at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Most of her work focused on the effects of global temperature increases on the El Niño/El Niña oscillation, and its links to the hurricane and monsoon season.
Back in Halifax this year, Novaczek works as a media rep and strategist for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, organizing conference calls, workshops and press releases. She’s also working as a curriculum coordinator for ITS For Girls, a science club that familiarizes young girls with industry, technology and science, and connects them with female mentors.
“Basically, I get to plan really sick field trips,” says Emilie. “This coming weekend I’m taking two groups of girls whale watching in Lunenburg. It’s going to be so much fun.”
On top of these two positions, classes and planning for COP 17 in Durban, Emilie is also this year’s science rep for the KSU.
This coming July, Emilie is set to spend a few months in the San Andres Archipelago, off the coast of Colombia. She’ll be doing work for her honours thesis at the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, on the subject of marine-protected governance. Although she’s technically ready to graduate this Spring, she is committed to completing her honours thesis. “I want to graduate and feel like I did more than fill out a bunch of Scantron sheets,” she says, laughing. W