MHC Students Attend Power Shift 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - 10:39

Posted: November 20, 2007

A group of six Mount Holyoke students traveled to the University of Maryland and Washington, DC, to participate in Power Shift 2007 November 2-5. Organized by the national Energy Action Coalition, a network of more than 50 organizations founded and led by youth, Power Shift 2007 was the first national youth summit to address global warming and to begin what some are calling the "next youth revolution" committed to solving the climate crisis.

The students--Elizabeth Cooper '10, Erin Coates '08, Meg Clements '11, Page May '10, Shuang Shao '11, and Megan Durling '09--joined an estimated 6,000 other young people from across the country to hear messages of support from Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), the House Global Warming Committee Chairman. Other prominent speakers included environmentalist Bill McKibben, climate justice leader Van Jones of "Green for All," former Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Ben Wikler of Avaaz.org, and Energy Action executive Director Jessy Tolkan. The Power Shift summit also included hundreds of workshops and panels on the topics of building a clean energy economy, achieving energy independence, creating millions of green jobs, increasing global equity and climate justice, and revitalizing the American economy.

After the weekend summit on Monday, November 5, hundreds of college students went to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming while thousands of students met with nearly every Senator's office and 300 House offices. The students spoke to members of Congress, asking them to work together to approve the strongest possible elements of the energy bills passed in the House and Senate as an important first step in addressing the current climate crisis and in promoting a green economy.

Included in these requests is a minimum 35 MPG by 2020 fuel efficiency standard similar to the legislation passed in the Senate; a Renewable Electricity Standard similar to the legislation passed in the House that will require utilities to get at least 15 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2020; and no subsidies for liquid coal or nuclear energy. The students leaders also called upon Congress to enact the 1Sky Climate Initiative, which calls for the generation of 5 million green jobs, resulting in a 20 percent conservation of energy by 2015; the immediate freezing of climate pollution levels and cutting them 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050; and the reprogramming of fossil fuel and highway investments for clean energy and transportation choices, starting with a moratorium on new coal plants.

The youth participants intend to return to their communities and campuses with plans of action to push for bold solutions to address the climate change issue. They will continue to press policymakers to enact the necessary solutions to address the climate crisis and will demand comprehensive plans of action from candidates on the issue. Several of the MHC students who attended the summit are members of MHC's Environmental Action Coalition or have been participating in the Center for the Environment's Focus the Nation (FtN) steering committee, a committee made up of CE staff, faculty, facilities and buildings staff, and students who are organizing a series of events leading up to the national "Focus the Nation" teach-in on January 31, 2008, during which nearly 1,000 campuses nationwide will bring attention to the issue of climate change.

The CE and the Focus the Nation committee plan a daylong program of panels and workshops to engage a communitywide discussion on creating a more sustainable campus and on reducing the College's carbon footprint. One committee member, visiting professor of environmental studies Giovanna Di Chiro, is teaching a Senior Capstone Seminar on Global Climate Change this semester and has been impressed with the students' passionate response to the issue of climate change. "The students in my seminar and those on the steering committee are unwilling to turn away from this colossal environmental problem, and many of them see themselves as being on the frontlines of a growing sustainability movement that is creating a vision for new ways of living in world," Di Chiro said. "They are committed to making the issue of global warming accessible and meaningful in their own everyday lives and in adopting sustainable solutions to the problem at many different levels--individual, campuswide, national, and global."

Having participated in the FtN steering committee all semester, Elizabeth Cooper '10 was excited to converge on the nation's capital with so many other committed students. "The Power Shift event gave me a sense of empowerment and excitement to really take on the task of changing our relationship with the earth and the energy we take from it," Cooper said. "Indeed, as we were reminded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Bill McKibben, among many other notable speakers, our generation must take on this issue, and we must do so with determination and hope. We are the last line of defense for the earth, for future generations, and indeed for our own generation itself. Participating in this event showed me that I belong to a strong, broad coalition that already is effecting change in appreciable ways on the local and the national levels."

Erin Coates '08, also on the FtN committee, first learned of the Power Shift summit in Di Chiro's Global Climate Change Senior Seminar this semester. She said that when she heard about the opportunity to go to Power Shift, she knew immediately that she had to go. "As an environmental studies major, I had the motivation in myself to be a climate activist; I just wasn't sure what to take action on and who to act with," Coates said. "Being a part of Power Shift really gave me the inspiration I was looking for. I got to hear people speak whose work I've only read about in classes. I got to interact with thousands of other students all wanting to work together to fight for this cause.

"The speakers were inspirational and emphasized the points that we, as youth, are the ones who need to take on this issue and not let anyone try to stop us from achieving our goals. In response, I heard thousands of students cheering, yelling, and demanding green jobs, emissions regulations legislation, and a moratorium on new dirty coal plants," Coates added. "I can still feel the energy from the crowd. This experience made me want to run back to school and tell everyone about what I learned and ask them to take action with me. I hope that I can transfer my energy to the entire Mount Holyoke community!"

Another student participant, Page May '10, spoke of her experience at the event: "By moving to solve global warming, we move towards solving the global injustices of our modern lives. This will take more people's energy and effort than any previous revolution, but it is possible. Power Shift marks the beginning and foundation of this revolution. The weekend was educational, optimistic, inspiring, and, above all, powerful. I wanted to have an impact and experience the community of a movement. This is not about the preservation of beautiful landscapes (although I hope to keep these), this movement is about protecting our futures, and active participation is, therefore, mandatory. I recognized this and decided that Power Shift would mark the beginning of my life's active pursuit of sustainability."

The students who attended the Power Shift 2007 Youth Summit will tell more of their experiences and share what they learned on a student panel to be presented at Mount Holyoke's Focus the Nation day to be held January 31, 2008. Look for more information soon about the scheduled events on the Center for the Environment Web site.

Related Links:

Center for the Environment

Power Shift 2007

MHC Focus the Nation program

Focus the Nation.org