Power Shift


A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Washington D.C. for a national youth conference on climate change. The conference was called Power Shift, and it’s my understanding that about 10,000 young people from all over the United States showed up to participate.

We came together from all corners of the U.S at the D.C. convention center, a massive building with escalator stair cases, new age artwork, and rooms large enough for all 10,000 of us to get together and share our stories, listen to speakers, and of course, to dance. You can’t have a revolution without music and dancing, after all.

I traveled with University of Montana student group Climate Action Now!, a group of highly motivated and intelligent young people who dedicate themselves to pursuing a more sustainable future at local, state, and national levels.  It is one of the largest and most active registered student organizations on campus, and the amount of work they accomplish as a group is nothing short of inspiring.

Thanks to the groups leadership, they managed to raise enough money to pay the way for twenty young people to go to Washington D.C. for five days. To learn more about what UM CAN does for our campus and community, check out their website at www.umcan.org

UM CAN is also one of the student groups that meets regularly at my home and work place, the UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (UM FLAT), the University of Montana’s student-run sustainable demonstration house.

In addition to providing educational workshops and tours for the campus and community, the UM FLAT provides a meeting space for community groups in our living room – although eventually they’ll meet in the old garage that we’ve been renovating into a super-insulated, energy efficient classroom and meeting space. After a ridiculous amount of navigating red tape and jumping through hoops, and in large part thanks to the hard work of my room mate Zach Brown, we  recently installed a 2.8 kw solar panel array on our roof that was donated by North Western Energy. This is the first solar panel system on a building owned by the University, and I’m proud to say that it was accomplished by the group of undergraduate and graduate students that I live with.

But I digress. Back to the Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C.:

Picture this: 10,000 young Americans coming from all over the country working together for a more sustainable future. Although we were a group rich with diversity, we were unified under our shared sense of of purpose.

We came for an education, for motivation, for solidarity, and for action. We attended workshops on a huge variety of subjects ranging from the effects of hydraulic fracture mining on water sheds to how to build a clean energy economy.

Motivational speakers such as former Vice President Al Gore, globally recognized human rights and clean energy activist Van Jones, and Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, all came to speak with us. President Obama even met with representatives from our movement and asked them, “Do you realize how powerful you are?”

We protested in front of a B.P. gas station and in front of B.P.’s Washington, D.C. headquarters on the anniversary of the largest oil spill in history demanding that they pay for the huge ecological damages they caused.

We marched on the National Mall from the White House towards the Capitol carrying signs demanding climate justice, and then our huge group split forces, half of us heading towards the Senate and the other half towards the House. At the end of our march we flooded Congress, respectfully lobbying our state representatives to help develop a clean energy economy and to protect the E.P.A’s ability to regulate the green house gasses that are causing climate change and polluting our atmosphere.

I left Power Shift feeling empowered and motivated, armed with a new education in organizing. It was in part the Power Shift conference, and in part the protests and  lobbying sessions that I attended in Helena a few months back, and in part my attendance at the Montana Environmental Student Alliance conference that motivated me to run for a seat on the ASUM Student Senate.

After a brief campaign, I received enough votes to be elected as a new student Senator for next year. As busy as I am this year juggling classes at the U and working at the UM FLAT, I can’t really fathom what next year will be like when I add student government to the list. Whatever happens, I look forward to another educational, recreational, ice cream, and hiking filled year in Missoula.

Speaking of school, good luck to all my college friends during finals!

Thanks for reading. Be good to each other.


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A little about me: I escape the city as often as possible to go on random outdoor excursions. I enjoy standing in the middle of bridges for extended periods of time. I love reading. I love dogs. I also love making music, dancing, potlucks, pretending to be a zombie on Halloween, gardening, running on trails, cooking with garlic, copious amount of hot sauce, falling leaves in autumn, and drinking black coffee. I also love writing, and feel fortunate to offer my weekly perspective as a college student to the Make it Missoula collective.