The Dernogalizer

March 3, 2009

Powershift Coverage

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 4:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This will be my last post on Powershift.  There was a very well done news article today by my school paper the Diamondback about all of the great stuff that happened this weekend in DC.

WASHINGTON – If the youth voice doesn’t matter, somebody forgot to tell the thousands of environmental activists at Power Shift.

This weekend, 12,000 college-age activists, including more than 130 students from the university, converged in Washington for Power Shift 2009, an event to push for environmental policy reform and to prioritize climate change as a major national issue. Organizers said they hope the students in attendance from around the country will return to their home districts after the event ends today to mobilize community members and campus officials.

“College students have the ability to be at the forefront of this movement,” said Jessy Tolkan, executive director of the event’s organizer, Energy Action Coalition. “They have the power to make their campuses models showing these policies are possible.”

Andrew Nazdin, a junior government and politics major and campaign director for the Maryland Student Climate Coalition, was one such student.

“We want to send those 10,000 students back to their campuses like a trained army,” Nazdin said. “Representatives are going to go back to their home districts, and we’ll be there waiting.”

The conference began Friday and featured more than 200 seminars, workshops and lectures designed to provide attendees with the tools to lobby their elected officials more effectively, including “Wasting our Future: Trash, incinerators, and other dirty stuff” and “Faith, Justice, Morality, and Climate Change.

Power Shift, which was last held in Nov. 2007 on the campus, had attendance explode from 5,500 in 2007 to about 12,000 this year, said Kim Teplitzky, national field director for the Sierra Student Coalition. Despite being less than 30 minutes from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where most Power Shift sessions occurred, and Clean Energy for UMD offering to subsidize registration costs, this university’s 131 registrants ranked fourth among attending colleges.

About 50 university students attended the “state break-out” on Saturday, in which attendees split into groups according to state. The Maryland contingent had a quorum of about 200, 50 of whom were from the university.

“I wanted to come together with students that have a common purpose,” said Leah Weiss, a sophomore environmental science major.

Graduate student Shannon Simmons said she was motivated to work harder because some members of her family don’t believe global warming exists.

“If I can’t convince my family, maybe I can convince some other people that global warming is a real threat,” she said.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) reaffirmed the power of the youth voice in her keynote speech Saturday night.

“It was young people who got themselves a president,” she said. “It was young people who got a new Congress. And it is young people who put climate change on the agenda.”

Excitement was high among university students at the conference – after Saturday night’s keynote speeches and a performance by The Roots, more than 1,000 conference-goers left the convention hall, chanting: “This is what democracy looks like.” They made a spontaneous march to the White House in the middle of the night, Nazdin said.

Tolkan said young people are a new political force to be reckoned with.

“Twenty-four million young voters came out this past election,” she said. “We showed that we could make political change in this election. It is critical that we flex that new political muscle and demand bold legislation.”

Power Shift may have had political impact before the conference even started: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a letter Friday imploring the Capitol architect to switch the nearby Capitol Power Plant from coal to natural gas by the end of the year.

Politicians looking at a power plant that has burned coal for 103 years and demanding change hours before Power Shift started was a huge sign of the conference’s power, said Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental website

“That’s not a coincidence,” he said. “That’s a movement.”

A march attempting to peacefully shut down the plant is planned for this afternoon, an action not associated with Power Shift but tacitly approved by conference organizers.

“Our movement is growing,” Tolkan said. “There is increasing demand for public action.”

Today’s activities consist of a rally on the west lawn of the Capitol Building and meetings with more than 350 members of Congress, including House Majority Leader and university alumnus Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The rally will feature a speech from Pelosi and is expected to draw 6,000 activists, Teplitzsky said.

“It doesn’t end on Monday,” she added. “People are going to go home and continue working with their legislators and urge them to pass bold climate legislation.”

A meeting with Hoyer today is open to the public, Nazdin said, and interested students are meeting at 2:15 p.m. in Hoyer’s office in the Longworth House Office Building.

The conference has exceeded turnout expectations since day one, Teplitzky said, and that momentum will most likely continue through the lobby day.

“Young people voted in record numbers,” she said. “Now, they’re looking for what’s next: This is it.”

Checkin out the Solar BackPack!

Checkin out the Solar BackPack!


  1. […] and is known as a very tough regulator. I actually heard from Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA at Powershift and she was very impressive in insisting the EPA return back to considering science in it’s […]

    Pingback by 100 days « The Dernogalizer — May 1, 2009 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  2. […] the role of natural gas for awhile now, ever since I saw the T Boone Pickens commercials.  At the Powershift 2009 conference I was at, I attended an informational session about natural gas.   It was very useful, […]

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  3. […] Not that it should be any surprise that young people want climate action. […]

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