At the age of 15, Thana Boonlert was introduced to the idea of climate change while watching the 2004 film ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’ It showed what the future of our planet may be, if we continue to live the way we did.

“It was kind of one of those post-apocalyptic type movies where the world was about to end,” he says.

Seeing this future allowed him to understand the implications and stories about climate change. and “what would happen if we do not start acting now.”

“The storms are going to get worse and worse,” Boonlert says. ”We need to listen to scientists at the end of the day to ensure we start doing the right thing about this.”

This led Boonlert to become more of an activist in his school and his home. He began to join environmental campaigns, as well as the environmental community. He would also try to fight climate change at home by driving less, reducing waste as well as lowering his consumption of high waste products.

While in high school, Boonlert wanted to have a bigger influence: “This is what led me into running for the student council. This was the last time I was elected.”

After graduating from high school, Boonlert pursued an environmental engineering degree at the University of Guelph.

His engineering education made him a passionate part of the effort “to find solutions and help with these climate change and environmental issues,” he said. “This eventually gave me the knowledge and experience needed when going into politics.”

When Boonlert moved from Ottawa to Calgary, he knew he would want to fight for the issue of climate change.

“There was not much going on in terms of [the] Green Party and their influence here,” he says. “So one thing led to another and I suddenly became the Green Party candidate for Calgary Center, in 2015.”

Boonlert shares that, at first, “It was pretty much a bare-bones team. I had no idea what running entailed. It was my first time really being heavily involved and honestly, it was only myself on the team.”

Thana Boonlert and his girlfriend Amanda Bishop are waiting for the C-train in Downtown Calgary. This couple chooses to take public transit in order to lower their carbon emissions footprint. Photo by Keanna Rapin.

“We just were putting all our challenges out with a fire hose. So, it was interesting, but [it] sparked something inside of me saying, ‘We can do this.’”

That led to him running during the recent Federal election – a campaign that had an office and many volunteers to help.

“I keep putting my hat in the ring and getting experience and getting involved more with the community. People are now recognizing my name and wanting to come help,” he says. “There is now a green presence.”

And that presence translated into more votes for Boonlert. He went from having 2.2 per cent of the Calgary Centre vote in 2015 to 4.3 per cent.

“Over one million Canadians [voted], saying that they are wanting to take a chance for the Green Party,” he says, commenting on the national election results which saw the party win 6.6 per cent of the vote.

But, despite this support, he still faces doubt from some friends and family.

“I actually feel like I have grown thicker skin at the door with negative comments, and I can just brush it off faster than before. For every negative comment I find there will be two positives ones to follow or at least neutral,” he said.

“Negative comments that come from the ones closest to you are the ones you always fret about for a lot longer.”

Despite this, he stays motivated. “If you know what you are fighting for and you know that there are other people working hard for the same thing across the country, you need to stay focused, to what the end goal is and why you are doing this.”

Overall, “we just want to bring out more collaboration with people to welcome their ideas and values.”

“Because for me, my entire motivation is that I want us to have a planet to survive on,” he says. “I want to have an economy that is prosperous for a long time, not just until the next election cycle.”.

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Editor: Mollie Smith | msmith@cjournal.ca