10K college kids prepare to descend on D.C.
Across the country, collegiate reporters clung to their earpieces Tuesday night, each reporter a link in the massive network disseminating a message of burgeoning environmental activism.
The teleconference, organized by the national student-led group Energy Action Coalition (EAC), was designed to inform journalists about the growing role of young people in the fight for legislation addressing clean energy sources and climate change. The event is only a prequel, though, to Power Shift ’09, a Washington, D.C., conference created by EAC that the organizers hope will harness the power of the 10,000 anticipated participants to enact significant federal legislative initiatives, EAC communications director Brianna Cotter said.
Power Shift began as a project to promote policies that advance the use of 100 percent clean energy. Since then, Power Shift has “blown up,” Cotter said. Students from thousands of campuses have joined this campaign for environmental action, which culminated in Power Shift ’07, for which 6,000 students convened in Washington to attend panels, teaching sessions and speeches by notables such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Power Shift ’09 is expected to be even bigger: Cotter noted that more than 6,000 people, including many Princeton students, have preregistered for the event, which will be held from Feb. 27 to March 2. The conference will feature prominent speakers, musical performances, panels and other programs geared toward education, such as training in environmental lobbying. Organizers also hope to contact every congressperson on Capitol Hill and lead a march, Cotter added.
Danny Growald ’11, Princeton’s Power Shift ’09 organizer and a co-chair of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE), explained that 47 Princeton students have already preregistered. If the chapter succeeds in reaching its goal of 60 students, it will be the largest collegiate delegation from New Jersey, Growald noted.
“I had such a great time [at Power Shift ’07] that I figured we had to put out a great effort and see how many students we could bring down this year,” Growald said.
Alexandra Landon ’12, a SURGE officer who is also helping organize Power Shift ’09, said that it was “really surprising [to] even [see] how many people [from the University] have been interested.”
“People I know who I wouldn’t normally classify as ‘green-conscious’ have expressed interest,” Landon added.
Such an active engagement from college students is not an anomaly, Cotter said. The unprecedented student interest in last November’s presidential election has given legitimacy to the concerns of American youth, who are increasingly conscious of the need to address environmental issues, she explained.
“Students are saying, ‘Listen, we elected to see change, and now we want to see some change,’ “ Cotter said. “We want bold, comprehensive federal energy and climate policy now that drastically reduces emissions, that invests in moving our country towards 100 percent energy and creates millions of good, green jobs.”
This emphasis on the environment is compatible with some other concerns of the Obama administration, such as national defense or the economy, both Cotter and Growald said.
“I think that every one of the problems we’re having right now has solutions based in transitioning towards a green economy,” Cotter explained. “The economy is failing right now, and we need to revive it with the good, green energy policy of the future.”
Growald also noted that energy policy and climate change are “not just ... environmental issue[s].”
“There are so many different ways in which climate change impacts the rest of society and, in invisible ways, affects the rest of our lives,” he said. Paying people to install solar panels, he explained, is an example of a job that is eco-friendly. “[B]y putting money and emphasis into renewable energy and … efficiency improvement, you can give jobs to people who need them and also reduce emissions.”
Landon and Growald said they are both looking forward to Power Shift ’09 because they will meet other students interested in creating change.
“It’s an opportunity to deepen interest, to learn a lot, to get really inspired and then to come back to campus and turn that inspiration into action,” Growald said.
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