In the first weekend of March, while some of us were getting Screwed, a group of 31 Swarthmore students made the trip to DC to take part in the Power Shift 2009 Conference with over 12,000 other young people. This was an increase over the 21 Swatties who attended the last conference, Power Shift 2007.
The weekend included “the biggest lobby day in history,” when over 5,000 “went to talk to their representatives and senators about their policies,” according to Elizabeth Crampton ’09. “We had done workshops about how to lobby, and we gave our legislators hard hats to wear to show their support and their willingness to step forward as climate change leaders.”
The lobbyists were specifically asking for a 25-40% reduction in harmful emissions by 2020 and an 85-95% reduction by 2050, as well as a commitment to 5 million new green jobs. “For every dollar spent on green jobs,” Crampton said, “we learned that it creates three times as many jobs as the polluting industries do… [the legislators] were very receptive to that argument.”
On March 2nd, students also took part in the Capitol Climate Action, which drew 2,500 to protest a coal plant that powers the Capitol. Camille Rogine ’11 reported that “it was largely organized by people from the surrounding community… we shut down the plant by surrounding the entrances, and police were there but it was peaceful.” Furthermore, “every banner was made from recycled materials.”
The protest had results even before it took place—three days before the protest, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid called for the plant to be taken off of coal and transferred to cleaner natural gas.
16 students from Chester also came to the conference, and Kavita Hardy ’09 said that “they were all totally blown away by the experience… here we take workshops about things like leadership for granted, but they were so excited about those and had a great time.”
Earthlust members are planning to keep the momentum going now that they’re back, with “Green March” fully in swing by the time you’re reading this article. Rogine said that Power Shift had focused on environmental issues within the broader context of social justice, and “we’re happy about that social focus… that’s the future of environmental activism, and that’s how to get people motivated on this campus.”
Looking forward to next year, “we hope to double the number of students attending,” said Blaine O’Neill ’11.