Power Shift 09 experience

I am still am baffled that it is March. Two months have passed, and I have two months left of school, but in all actuality 1.5 months (Spring and Easter breaks!). The work load the past month and a half has absolutely been draining to the soul. I have had at least one test or more, plus labs and quizzes for the last 6 weeks. That is absolutely absurd and it continues when I get back from Spring break for another two weeks. By the end of it all I will have had 12 big assignments in 1.5 months and only 2 tests for the last month of school. Very very annoying. I am dealing with high levels of stress and lack of sleep.

Last week was no exception, I got 3 hours of sleep, or less, for the entirety of the week. Then woke up at 4AM on Friday morning to head to Washington D.C. for Power Shift. However tired we all were, the energy levels were high that Friday morning. We finally arrived in DC and headed straight to the convention center. We were greeted by this LARGE banner

The first day there was a large job fair. Since, I was not looking for either a job or internship for the summer it proved to be quite useless. I decided to go sit down for awhile, but then headed up the huge staircase that is in that first picture. At the top of the stairs was more tables that were oriented for causes and student organization opportunities. I talked to Campus Progress, Student PIRGs, Forest Justice, and many many more. I was so excited to hear about these amazing non-profits. Campus Progress works hard to get student's voices and concerns heard by helping them with any issues they are having with an organization. Anything from getting a speaker for free and paying for their travel costs, helping getting the word out on campus about a new organization, or even putting together a rally. Student PIRGs work with a university campus to 'work to solve public interest problems related to the environment, consumer protection, and government reform.' And Forest Justice is a new organization that is working hard on innovative tactics in the fight against deforestation and its effects. In other words, I became highly energized in the first hour I was at Power Shift.

We then attended a special event called 'Awakening the Dreamer' which allowed us to reflect spiritually, visually, and on our connections with people and the world. It was a 4 hour symposium that explores the questions:

  • Where Are We? – an examination of the state of environmental, social and personal well-being
  • How did We Get Here? – tracing the root causes that lead to our current imbalance
  • What’s Possible for the Future? – discovering new ways of relating with each other, with the Earth and looking at the emerging Movement for change
  • Where Do We Go from Here? – considering the stand we want to be in the world and our personal and collective impact
from their website

Again, this was extremely powerful and if you are looking for something to repower you and find your roots in the activist community go to the website and look to see where one will be held near you (they hold them ALL over the world).

The night ended with keynote speaches from: Mojora Carter, Rocky Anderson, Lisa Jackson, Van Jones, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Billy Parish...and more And Santigold performed. Absolutely brilliant. Loads of screaming and cheering from a room of 12,000.

The next day started our panels and workshops. With 5 different sessions alloted. I wish there were more panel slots, but if there were we'd never have time to eat or sleep.

My 5 were:
-Go Green Without Greenwashing: Communicating a Winning Message on Climate Change (panel included Summer Rayne Oakes!)
-Healthier planet; healthier people - the dual fight for health care and climate change solutions
-Social Media for the Greener Good: from Twitter to Facebook, using the latest and greatest tools for your campaign on the social web (panel featured the creator of Facebook Causes)
-Take a Bite Out of Climate Change and Inequality: Your Plate, Fair Food and the Climate Crisis (was not happy that one student's idea of bridging the gap between all three was to have a 'Meet Your Meat' event where the club would drag a pig around their campus for 3 days, then roast it...actually it didn't just make me unhappy I was close to tears that so many people could think that was okay. I wanted to scream. I wanted to go up to her after the session and tell her that she was choosing not to bridge the gap, but to exploit an intelligent mammal and scare it literally to death, but she left the room way before I was able to. Completely disgusting)
-Agribusiness is Cooking the Climate--Intersections between the food we eat, how we grow it, and our climate (most definitely my favorite of all the panels. the panel told us that this was only planned 5 days before the event, which showed that even powershift organizers were not putting two and two together between large scale industries and global warming. One panelist completely focused on the meat/dairy/egg industry making me smile with glee that a room of 200 would be educated)

The night ended with more entertainment and keynote speakers...but I went to dinner at my cousin's house. She had her first child two days earlier. I got to be the first one from my side of the family to meet little James. He was so cute, yet I forgot to take any photos...my excuse is that I was holding him the entire time I saw him, so sleeping teeeny baby in my arms does not mesh well with trying to find my camera and take photos. But I will assure you he is a cutie.

Sunday we had the 4th and 5th panels and then 5 hours of meetings to get us prepared to meet with our Senators and Reps. After we had mock meetings, we got to meet with our own states and talk about issues in our states that matter and also to discuss our plan of action with our reps. It was really great to see how many kids from Wisconsin were there. Almost 40 of us! When the drive is almost 15 hours, this is a really good turn out. The states with the most were of course from the east coast. But every state in the US and every Canadian province and 12 other countries were represented this weekend.

Monday was our huge rally. We met on capital hill in inches of snow and blistering cold wind. I held a huge sign that spoke on issues of factory farming and grain production. Not really sure what it said though, I just saw a group that had animal rights related signs, and I quickly asked if I could hold one of them. It was actually for a TV channel online, Supreme Master TV. I got filmed a whole bunch, but not sure if I'll ever find it. Their site is quite confusing to me. But the rally was an amazing experience, no matter how frozen my toes were, or how sore my arms were from trying to hold up a heavy sign that was being gusted down.

Between the rally we went to 3 separate meetings. Two with Senators and one with a Congressman. What was so awesome is the Senators were very open to climate change legislation and wanted it to be as tough as possible on industries that are causing so much of our greenhouse gases. The last meeting, which I actually led (how cool!) was with a very conservative Representative, though he was still open to new technologies, but very worried with the few in his district that are worried about windmills and so on. It just goes to show that writing an email or letter to your state represenatives do not go to waste, they will read and take your voice into consideration. I know I have sent many, many letters to Obama (when he was my senator) and Durbin (who I have met with a few years ago). The greatest part of lobbying is the fact that they will almost always send you a detailed response back. Most likely not personally from the rep, but the fact that the office takes the time to reply back with past actions and what they plan to do in the future is exciting. Never hesitate to have your voice heard!

So all in all, my experience was amazing. We did a lot of walking and climbed a lot of steps, got lost a few times, were completely crushed by the shear amount of people in one place, and were exhausted...but I am so fucking happy I got to participate.

Power Shift 2010?

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