Virginia Power Shift 2009 and the 350 Day of Climate Action!
Published 27th October 2009 - 6 comments - 1176 views -
This weekend, in conjunction with 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action, more than 100 students from across the Commonwealth of Virginia converged on the campus of George Mason University in order to plan the next phase in the fight for a clean and responsible future for Virginia the United States, and the globe.
Virginia Power Shift 2009 was marked by a wide array of workshops, panels and speakers, ranging from greening your daily living, political and direct action training (with help from the folks at AVAAZ), and new and diverse ways to spread and grow the youth environmental movement.
The phenomenal lot of keynote speakers included Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Jessy Tolkan, director of the Energy Action Coalition, and Gillian Caldwell from the 1Sky campaign, all key personalities in the struggle to end human-caused climate change. Representatives from Repower America and SustainUS offered valuable insight into the role of youth within America’s nonprofit and NGO culture.
Tom Dawkins from the social entrepreneurial nonprofit, The Ashoka Foundation, presented a discussion on new media, web 2.0, and the power of user and community-driven media in the environmental movement. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and blogging are all immensely powerful tools, if you know how to use them properly. Focusing on refining how new journalists diffuse their stories, the workshop was undeniably crucial to the aspiring eco-writer.
Chelsea Harnish of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network highlighted the campaign against a proposed coal fired-power plant to be built in southeastern Virginia. The carbon-belching monster will be the largest built in the state if completed, and locals as well as outsiders have mobilized in resistance to the proposal. This workshop gave students an opportunity to plug in to the fight against new coal in the Commonwealth, offering updates on the current fight and suggesting new ways to take action against the plant.
Of course, the high point of the conference revolved around Saturday’s 350.org action, held in George Mason’s student center. The call for 350 parts per million, considered the maximum amount of CO2 allowed in the atmosphere before global warming threatens to become a runaway threat, has galvanized the international "green" community. As power-shifters eagerly wrote hand-written notes to each of Virginia’s Senators, calling for bold moves to combat climate change, volunteers and staff handed out large signs, each with tailor-made demands for cleaner energy, green jobs, and to separate ourselves from a dying fossil fuel regime.
Overall, the relative size of our human “350” paled in comparison to those thousands of actions across the planet, in every major city and in dozens of countries, but for those 100 or so in attendance, the image was an extremely powerful one. Saturday, the world found solidarity in a number that may seem ambiguous at first, but one that carries heavy and urgent implications for our planet.
Virginia leaders left Power Shift with a renewed sense of purpose and community, one that seeks to remind us all that we are not alone in this fight. We can rally around three simple digits, we can chant, shout, write, organize, motivate and inspire. We can attend workshops, marches and powerful speakers. We can bombard the halls of Congress with a pleading, ceaseless call for a new energy future. We can take that call to Copenhagen -- but not without the most critical element of the battle for a better planet: its people.
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