When we were tweens, we may have owned a lemonade stand, but we certainly didn’t speak at Ted Talks.
Meet Hannah Alper: eco-blogger, activist, public speaker and did we mention, 11 years old? This remarkably grounded tween has set out to remind us about what is important.
Currently on the road on a speaking tour, she set aside some time to answer our questions while we ourselves ate humble pie.
When did you first consider yourself an environmentalist?
I attended a Digital Family Summit, where families with teens and tweens learn about videos, gaming and blogging. I went to a three-hour WordPress workshop where I created my blog, callmehannah.ca. I didn’t know what I was going to blog about, but my parents wanted me to blog about something I was passionate about. I've always loved animals, and I began to realize that the damage we're doing to their habitats. Animals rely on the environment and they rely on us to help the environment. I decided I was going to blog about the environment. I was going to learn and be inspired by others to be more eco-friendly in my home, school, and community and hopefully show that anyone can do it.
What's involved in being the eco-blogger for the Juno awards, and what's it like?
This was such an honour. I love being the “on the ground” eco-blogger for the JUNO Awards. The exhibit had four interactive listening and learning stations and each one with a different sustainability theme featuring a Canadian musician and their cause. It was cool to learn about the causes that Canadian musicians care about. I wrote posts on how to be more eco-friendly while on the road, and what musicians are doing to use their voice with eco causes they believe in.
How do you decide on your blogging topics and do you ever have writer's block?
I’ve been a blogger since I was 9, so for almost two years I’ve been doing posts almost weekly. I’ve always loved writing. I come up with ideas for blogs by reading about someone who inspires me and I want to share their story. I also get inspiration from events I attend or hear about and any action that’s taking place in the community, around the world or really, anywhere.
Finding my spark wasn’t hard at all, but I learned you have to find your community, as nobody can do it alone. You have to ask for help to get your message heard. When you have your voice heard, it changes you – you feel good, and it’s not easy to keep at it. You have to continue to want to write and share your experiences. I’ve never been told I couldn’t do anything, so speaking at TEDx or in front of 20,000 people or going on a 10-week tour across Canada is an opportunity to learn outside the classroom, and I love that! I’ve never had writer’s block, and in fact, I think I have too many things in my mind that I want to write about!
What is the best part about being such a well-known eco-blogger?
Meeting kids from across North America during We Days and now, I’m on a 10-week tour across Canada visiting schools with Spencer West talking about how to find your spark, and using your voice for good. I’m inspired by hearing stories of kids and teenagers making a difference, and it feels so good to know they’re working on making the world a better place.
I get to meet people I admire, and learn from what they did – Severn Suzuki, David Suzuki’s daughter, is a great influence to me. When she was nine years old, she started caring about the environment and she created an Environmental Children’s Organization.
Spencer West is also a great influence. When he was 5 years old, Spencer’s legs were amputated because of a disease called Sacral Agenesis. He climbed Mount Kilamanjaro on his hands and walked from Edmonton to Calgary, on his hands! He’s taught me about his motto, “No can’t, No won’t, Only how” and when you face an obstacle you can make your way around it and you can “redefine your possible.”
Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children inspire me daily because they both show that young people are never too young to make the world a better place. It’s really all about the community and teamwork that make the great causes happen.
Do you have any dreams for when you’re grown up or are you doing everything you want right now?
I want to be an activist. I’ve learned about social justice, the environment and animal rights, so I don't know what kind of activist, but I will do everything it takes. I’ll go to university and I will always use my voice. My voice is the most powerful thing I have in my body and I'm going to use it just like Severn Suzuki, just like Spencer West, and just like Craig and Marc Kielburger. While I’m on the road on this speaking tour, I’m getting an education I can’t get in the classroom, so I’m excited to learn about what’s out there!
We’re excited for you too, Hannah. Keep using that voice of yours!