478 Vermont college students are going to Washington D.C. this week for the Power Shift '09 youth climate summit. That's according to Jessica Serrante, an Environmental Studies major at the University of Vermont. In a phone interview, Serrante tells Seven Days that the state ranks 6th nationwide for Power Shift enrollment. (The conference website doesn't list enrollment stats.)
Power Shift, which was first organized in 2007 by the advocacy group Energy Action, is an annual gathering of young people concerned about climate change. This year's conference, held from February 27 to March 2, comes days after President Barack Obama asked Congress to draft legislation that would establish market-based caps on carbon dioxide emissions. Power Shift organizers expect 10,000 attendees, and a blogger from greenforall.org claims Power Shift will inspire the "biggest lobby day on climate and green jobs in U.S. history."
According to the Power Shift '09 website, conference organizers aim to:
Push the new administration and Congress to pass bold, comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
Prepare our leaders and our movement for the international climate negotiations in December 2009 where we will help build and ratify a strong global climate agreement — one that allows all communities to participate and benefit.
- Develop a comprehensive strategy for continued political pressure and accountability and a shared vision to facilitate the development and implementation of individual and group action plans for local, state and national campaigns.
- Strengthen the bonds between diverse youth constituencies while we train and empower each other with the skills needed to create one movement that tackles climate change, environmental injustice, and economic failure.
- Connect with fellow organizers and build community to build our power and sustain our own involvement for the long-term.
- Understand the magnitude of both the challenges and opportunities presented by the climate crisis and explore our own capacities to
"The conference is pretty symbolic of our generation realizing that clean energy and green jobs are going to have to be part of our future," Serrante explains. Last year's Power Shift conference, adds the 20-year-old activist, inspired a campus campaign in which UVM students lobbied administrators to source sustainably harvested toilet paper; Serrante says this year's conference may inform a collaboration with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
Photo courtesy of Basil Tsimoyianis.