A few weeks ago, on the weekend of April 15-18, I attended PowerShift in Washington, DC with a group of about 35 other Dickinson students. PowerShift is a climate action conference, and almost 10,000 youth and college students from across the nation attended this year. As you can probably guess from the name, PowerShift is about shifting the power; in this case, away from the hands (and money) of gigantic companies and into the hands of the people. It was a weekend full of inspiring speakers, informative workshops, training in grassroots organizing, and on Monday, a march from Lafayette Square to Capitol Hill, followed by lobbying.
Some of the keynote speakers included Al Gore, Van Jones, Tim Dechristopher, Josh Fox, and Lisa Jackson. Of these, I thought that the most inspiring speaker was Tim Dechristopher, so his is the video I’ll share (it may take a few minutes to load, but it’s well worth it).
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Beyond just listening to amazing speakers, there were over 100 different workshops to attend. These included things like: “Getting Banks to Stop Funding Dirty Energy,” “Community Solutions for Climate Justice,” “The Clean Air Act,” and “Winning the Climate Argument.” This is just a small sampling of the wide range of available workshops. Students from the Dickinson group, one of the largest groups there despite the size of our school, went to many different workshops and then shared information with each other.
The march on Monday was really incredible. It was very high energy, optimistic, a bit of venting frustration. People carried signs that said things like climate justice, clean energy = green jobs, and more. We had lots of different chants, one of which a call and response that the title of this post is from: “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” Other popular ones were “People, not profits!” or “Hey hey, ho ho, dirty coal has go to go!” We marched through the streets of Washington, and some people even joined us. Then we had a day of lobbying, where we got to speak with the staff of Senators Toomey and Casey, as well as several Representatives. The point of lobbying was to ask our reps to support the Clean Air Act, stop giving handouts to dirty energy and support clean energy instead, and to stand up to dirty energy money in politics. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we had little luck with Pennsylvania’s reps, but we have contact information to keep in touch with them.
A big component of this year’s PowerShift was a focus on grassroots organizing, and training us to build movements that could sustain the energy of PowerShift past the weekend and into our homes. Post-PowerShift, many of us that went have begun reorganizing SAVES, a Dickinson sustainability group which is meant to be an umbrella organization. We’re planning major changes to the group for next year, and everyone is looking forward to not being idle after the energy of the weekend. Part of the organizing was also networking with other students from the state, and we’ve all made friends with several students from other schools in PA with whom we’ll continue to work in the coming months.
Overall, it was one of the most exciting and empowering weekends of this semester. I know that all of us Dickinson students are really excited to keep the momentum going. I’m including some links for anyone who might be interested in getting involved in anything we talked about at PowerShift, though these are just a few things that I picked up in my workshops and by no means cover everything.
PowerShift This is the post-PowerShift area, and a lot of people are posting their stories. It’s really interesting.
Food and Water Watch These guys cover a lot. In the workshop they sponsored, we talked about the Fair Farm Bill.
Peaceful Uprising In case anyone found Tim Dechristopher as inspiring as I did.