In 2005, I was a college freshman who had just met a team of about 30 youth leaders in the Northeast working to unite their colleges around a clean energy future. By 2007, over 400 campuses were in on the Campus Climate Challenge, the flagship campaign of the Energy Action Coalition. In the fall of 2008, we mobilized over 350,000 young people nationwide to vote for the climate. And last weekend, there was a PowerShift.
Last weekend, I helped lead a team of about 250 Minnesota students as we boarded buses, vans, and yes, even planes to get to Washington DC, where we converged with 12,000 other youth leaders from all 50 states and over a dozen countries. The conference was a mecca for an emerging movement - youth leaders who are coming together to promote a new vision of economic recovery, social justice, and energy security founded on a stable climate and sustainable communities nationwide. As an activist who has been working in this movement for over four years, it was inspiring.
PowerShift was the meeting of all of the friends and colleagues from across the country that I hardly ever see, hundreds of other leaders I never knew about, and thousands more just getting introduced to the power of the grassroots. For three days, we trained in workshops, met up with other participants, and then converged on Capitol Hill for the largest lobby day on climate issues in history. While some of the press found it ironic that our climate rally was met by a DC snowstorm (3 inches on March 2; not much by Minnesota standards), the young people and older allies participating are looking much longer term, focusing on a strategy for revitalizing our economy through green jobs, local economies, and clean energy. We are already having an impact - national policy on energy is turning sharply in the favor of solutions in the new administration - which young people helped elect - though there is still far to go.
Even more inspiring, in my mind, is the way in which our work here in the US is inspiring action across the globe, as demonstrated in the attached video. Worldwide, people are coming together in search of solutions, calling on the leaders of the world to take the steps most needed to solve the climate crisis and re-energize the economy at the UN Climate talks in Copenhagan this December - talks which many are calling the most important international meeting since World War 2.
The timeline for national action before this all-important meeting is tight - we have less than 9 months for sweeping national action to send a global signal that we are ready to step forward. At PowerShift, this urgency came through - in the words of the speakers, the energy of the other Minnesota students who joined me in lobbying Senator Amy Klobuchar, and in the words of the team of youth leaders with whom I testufied at the youth briefing of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, hosted by Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts. PowerShift is just the beginning - a new chapter is opening as young people across the world seek to re-energize our society to restore our economy, our communities, and our planet.