Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shifting the power with Powershift 2009

This morning and afternoon I attended the Power Shift 2009 conference hosted at Penn State's Eco-Action. Let's just say that with some minimal preparation they got over 200 kids from around Pennsylvania colleges and universities and a small gaggle of environmental activists together for a day of hope. Hats off to the organizers!

There were four highlights for me today:

The opening speech and welcome asked us to consider what a climate bill should look like. Not what it does look like but what it should look like. The Boxer-Kerry Climate Bill (access materials on it from John Kerry's website) is starting its way through the U.S. senate and might make its way to being combined with the Waxman-Markley H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act from the House. What's in these? What's up with cap and trade? For many people there, it is a step in the right direction because it gets us a bit closer to renewable energy. But for Greenpeace and some others, it's a bunch of the same old "Business as Usual" because it perpetuates the CO2-spewing toxic coal industry linked to cancer in children. I am not about to start taking sides in this issue right here. Suffice it to say that if we want to change how much electricity we get from dirty processes, we need to pay attention to these bills, who's drafting them, who's profiting, who's being hurt by them, and realize that if we want things to change, we need to learn a lot and do it quickly and ethically.

The "eco-model" Summer Rayne Oakes (pic at right) spoke to us as well. She talked about her voyage to becoming a spokesperson for the sustainability movement. As a girl she loved being outside and then in high school worked on stream reclamation in northeastern Pennsylvania where she saw the damage that the coal industry had done to nature there. Then, in college at Cornell, she studied sewage and bugs (she didn't tell us her major). She went into fashion modeling but carried her love of nature with her and has become a spokesperson for sustainability. I think I understood correctly when she said that she works with the Rainforest Action Network and has helped plant, run, and finance a number of tree farms in Mozambique and gotten huge high-end clothing and fashion lines like Gucci to stop making bags from wood made from the trees of the Indonesian rainforest. But she gave us a good message to get on with. Align what you believe is right in this world and must be right in this world with the work you do in your job. Work for good anywhere you can. She also shared a rather brilliant video by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

After lunch we had our photo op for the 350 International Day of Climate Action. And it was pretty awesome! We were in solidarity with roughly 5,000 other groups around the world today who are calling on our leaders to listen to us - we need to create a new world that is more sustainable and our fossil fuel use and its subsequent climate abuse must change now. From Bangledesh to South Africa, from Ghana to New Zealand, from Vienna to Sydney, from London to the Maldives, from Mongolia to University Park, Pennsylvania, we are calling for reductions across the board. It is just. It is equitable. It is good. Read about it in The New York Times too. You can see all of the photos sent in so far by going to the 350 Flicker site. It's pretty amazing stuff. [As of 8:50 on 10.24.09 Penn State's isn't up yet.] The one at right is my favorite so far. We don't have a Planet B. Let's work for this one.

At the end, I got to talk to some people who work for Penn State and with whom I have had the great fortune to begin some pieces of work to make Penn State more ecologically sustainable. One works in extension and one at Penn State Altoona. The more I involve myself at this university, the more human reasons I find to celebrate and hope. The journey to sustainability is a long one. But some of our peers and elders are wellsprings to shift the powers that be to the powers that should be.

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