Power Shift

From the September 2011 PNL #807

by Andrew Greco

There is a youth climate movement growing in Central New York which sprouted this spring at an event called Powershift. The convention was held in Washington, DC from April 15-18 with an emphasis on lobbying for a transition to sustainable energy, a call for green jobs, workshops and panel discussions, and organizing individuals regionally.

Powershift featured eco-celebrities like Josh Fox, director of the hydro-fracking exposé Gasland, former Obama “green jobs” advisor Van Jones, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and most notably former Vice President Al Gore. Friday evening opened with Jones, Gore, and Jackson delivering keynote speeches and rallying those in attendance with their mutual message stressing the imminent need to transition to alternative energy and insist that polluters pay. Saturday featured a series of workshops and panels, such as Cycling Activism 101, Starting an Urban Garden, and How Hip Hop is Going Green (search online for DJ Cavem)!

A major focus of the conference was teaching the assembled youth activists skills and how to organize on their respective campuses nationwide. We learned crucial skills such as how to decentralize our groups,  delegate tasks, communicate with others, and work with local governments. Saturday evening featured a screening of Gasland, a Q&A session with Josh Fox, and a live performance on his banjo. Afterwards, McKibben delivered a rousing speech highlighting the extreme weather events occurring around the world and delineating their linkages with climate change.

On Sunday we divided into groups based on our state—incidentally, New York was the most represented state in the entire country. We agreed unanimously that the main issue under consideration in New York would be “fracking,” a horizontal gas drilling method which carries significant health and environmental risks. It involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release natural gas [see June 2010 PNL]. After this consensus we broke into groups based on our regions. The Central New York region goes by the name, Green Umbrella: NY Youth for a Just and Sustainable Future. Our group features students from SUNY ESF, such as myself, Ithaca College, Cornell University, and many more. The Green Umbrella’s additional goals involve coordinating events and rallies, advocating for local food, promoting clean energy, and advancing campus sustainability.

Monday was devoted entirely to rallying around Washington, starting off right in front of the White House. Over 10,000 of us donned green hardhats demanding green jobs, funding for renewables, and climate justice. We marched around the city, stopping for nearly an hour in front of the Chamber of Commerce, letting them know that they do not speak for us. Afterwards, we marched to BP’s office and demanded they clean up the Gulf Oil Spill satisfactorily and end offshore drilling. Workers who had been cleaning up the oil spoke about their experiences on the job, health repercussions, and the media blackout of the cleanup efforts. Finally, we wound up back at the White House and said our farewells. We all headed back home with fire in our bellies, ready to work toward necessary systemic change. 

Members of the Green Umbrella hold conference calls every week and are eagerly awaiting the semester to further organize on our respective campuses. For more information on how to get involved, please visit nygreenumbrella.wordpress.com.

Andrew, a recent graduate of SUNY Stonybrook, moved to Syracuse this summer to begin a master’s program at SUNY ESF.