Last weekend, over 12,000 students from around the country converged on Washington D.C. for the Power Shift Conference. Their demand: that the president and Congress rebuild the American economy and reclaim the future by passing a bold climate and energy policy that prioritizes renewable energy and green jobs. Sixty Colgate students were in attendance at the conference for a weekend full of activities, which culminated Monday with a rally on the Capitol’s West Lawn and a day of calling on lawmakers.
The conference was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where there were hundreds of panels and workshops supplemented by keynote speakers, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and musical artists, including the Roots.
Sophomore Lindsay Miller attended the conference and commented on her experience.
“I had so much fun talking to everyone at the conference,” Miller said. “People were so open, curious and willing to learn.”
Her only disappointment was that there were so many options and not enough time.
“It was hard to get into the panels that I wanted to see. [Still, the conference] gave me some ideas of stuff we can do on campus. Also, in future years, it will be a great opportunity for networking,” Miller said.
Power Shift began in 2007 with the first-ever national youth climate summit aimed at raising environmental awareness and lobbying leaders on green issues. Just one conference later, the number of attendants has more than doubled. According to Jessy Tolkan, Director of the Energy Action Coalition, which organized Power Shift, this increase has been partly due to the excitement surrounding the new governmental administration.
“The youth of America turned out in record numbers to elect a new president and transform Congress in the last election,” Tolkan said in a press release. “We’re here now to take our rightful seat at the political table…We are at a critical point in our nation’s history. We have the chance to work with our new leadership to pass a green economic stimulus package and bold climate and energy policies. We won’t allow this moment to pass us by.”
Meetings were scheduled at more than 360 congressional offices, some of which drew as many as 600 constituents at a time. The group pressed Congress to pass a comprehensive climate change bill that will position the United States as a leader going into international climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
Sophomore Caroline Callahan attended the conference because of her connection to Outdoor Education and her desire to address green issues at Colgate.
“I am really involved with Outdoor Education on campus and I feel that, as an organization, we should learn a lot about the environment and help Colgate to work on its sustainability,” Callahan said.
Her favorite part of the conference was “listening to the speakers because you could feel the energy with all 12,000 students around and the speakers were phenomenal.”
Callahan hopes to bring some of the information and excitement from the conference back to Colgate to benefit the campus.
According to the press release and company spokesman, Gary Skulnik, the conference has made arrangements through the Rockville, Maryland based organization, Clean Currents, to offset all 93 tons of carbon dioxide the conference is expected to generate. He explained that investments in wind power will offset the event’s electricity and natural gas use.