Power Shift is a national climate justice conference hosted by the Power Shift Network aimed at inspiring, teaching and building momentum among communities of climate activists. While geared toward college students, the attendees ranged from front-line activists fighting oil pipelines to those who joined their school Green Team and simply wanted to find out more. Dozens of breakout sessions are held to educate people on all perspectives of the environmental movement, making the college youth well-rounded activists. This model helps provide skills like bridging alliances, mobilizing peers and winning campaigns.
This year, Power Shift held regional conferences, Philadelphia being the Northeast location. I, along with two other student Eco Reps, attended as representatives of Rider’s Office of Sustainability. There were many interesting panels to choose from that discussed instituting change on campus and using the unique skill sets of millennials. Senior Eco Rep Alexandra (Lexi) Reynolds said, “The most valuable session I attended was ‘Dinner’s Ready: The Importance of Having Everyone at the Table,’ which focused on the issues of environmental racism and racism in the environmental movement. After learning some of the basics and historical background, we broke into smaller groups to discuss how racial inequality impacts minorities when dealing with environmental issues.
“Aside from the sessions, I thought the best part of Power Shift was the action, the ‘March for a Clean Energy Revolution.’ More than 10,000 people came to demonstrate their support for breaking away from fossil fuels. The crowd was so high energy and positive, and we were received well by the people we passed on the streets, who often joined in with our chants. It was so inspirational to see thousands of people working towards a better future.”
The march was the perfect ending to an empowering weekend. Seeing many people who are passionate about the environmental movement says that as more young activists get involved, the promise of a sustainable future becomes that much closer. However, this is only the beginning of a long road ahead.
Junior Eco Rep Kenny Dillon said, “Yelling in the street is not exactly a pragmatic way to solve problems. But problem solving isn’t the objective — it’s the long-term goal. The objective is getting students excited about the fight for renewable energy and sustainable solutions. Chants of ‘Ain’t no power like the power of students ‘cause the power of students don’t stop’ excited the crowd. This kind of energy, in unison, incites a specific type of passion and confidence in a cause. The important part is using this confidence to speak up, organize and mobilize. Rider needs more organized student groups fighting for a better future.
“We need to lead the effort by joining the environmental groups on campus (Green Team, Eco Reps, Garden Club, etc.), and inviting environmentally friendly groups (Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc.) here as well, therefore looking for ways to live and work smarter at Rider, in unison.”
A lot of the information from Power Shift could be used to make Rider an even more sustainable place to be, as well as the world at large.
G.A. for the Office of Sustainability
Printed in the 09/07/16 issue.