Sadie Vipond, 14. Illustration: Sam Hester.

Sadie Vipond: A young climate activist finds her voice

We can’t go back to normal when this is over.’

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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.



When the clock ticked midnight on January 1, 2020, Sadie Vipond, who was almost 14, was quietly suing the federal government.

Vipond, along with 14 other youths across Canada, launched the suit in late 2019. They claimed that their fundamental rights were being violated by a warming planet. But Vipond refused most media interviews.

The young climate activist witnessed the harassment of other plaintiffs, and of Greta Thunberg—who’d stayed at Vipond’s house during her 2019 trip to Alberta. She worried about a severe backlash to her.

But in June, she decided to speak out.

“I wanted to go public because I feel like it's a really important time to raise awareness about the climate crisis, especially in Alberta,” she said.

2020 is really important because it actually shows us what we can have if we don’t exhibit our footprint as much.

Sadie Vipond

She was motivated by the positive environmental changes reported around the world after cities locked down and travel ground to a halt. In India, the Himalayas were visible for the first time in decades, she points out.

“2020 is really important because it actually shows us what we can have if we don't exhibit our footprint as much,” she said.

Over the summer she gave media interviews and wrote an essay in Alberta Views. The response has been welcoming, though she says she doesn’t read the comments for “the sake of my mental health.”

She’s even been recognized on the street.

The Grade 9 student draws inspiration from her parents, especially her father, Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician who has been a vocal advocate for masks throughout the pandemic and is a well-known environmental activist in Calgary.

This year gave me a lot more self-awareness and self-growth.

Sadie Vipond

One of the challenges she faced this year was that for several months beginning this spring, the teen moved out of her family home and into her cousin’s house down the street—a decision the family made in order to reduce her risk of becoming exposed to COVID-19 through her father. “We’re a really close family,” she said. “That was a really hard time.”

On October 27, a Federal Court judge dismissed the teens’ lawsuit against the Canadian government. Vipond and the other plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal on November 24.

“This year gave me a lot more self-awareness and self-growth,” she said.

She looks forward to her social circles returning to normal, but hopes there’s no going back on the climate front.

“We can’t go back to normal when this is over.”

Christina Frangou is a Calgary journalist who covers health and social issues. Her reporting has garnered multiple national awards and nominations, including a National Newspaper Award in long feature writing for a story about her experience as a young widow.

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