Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Union Students Re-inspired at Power Shift 2013 in Pittsburg, PA

By: Austin Anderson '15
     When I registered for Power Shift 2013, I knew that I would be participating in workshops and lectures providing me with the tools to fight the multi-dimensional monster that is climate change. Looking back upon this amazingly enlightening and empowering weekend I shared with fifteen other Union College students, I can say that preconception was undoubtedly true. However, what I personally took away from this conference far transcended the theoretical skills and knowledge necessary to achieve victory for this cause that is the environmental movement. That something was inspiration.
Part of the group of Union Students at Power Shift 2013
     This inspiration is a call to action that radiated from the faces of the eight thousand idealistic individuals from every imaginable background and corner of our country that participated in Power Shift this past weekend in Pittsburgh. I saw a generation coming together under a banner of solidarity, not only for the environment, but standing for all progressive values that are right and just; a generation founded in inclusive equality. What I saw underway was a shift in power from the old order to the new and I couldn’t be any more excited to be present to witness and take part in it.

So what did we learn?

     In a nutshell, we learned how to direct our passion and inspiration towards productivity and progress. For example, workshops and panels included presentations on non-violent direct action to combat the Keystone XL pipeline which will dissect our nation, delivering dirty tar-sands from Canada to the Gulf for export internationally.
Schedule for Saturday
     There were United Nation climate negotiation round-tables where students and mentors gathered to discuss solutions to global climate change.  The most glaring and unsettling issue gleaned from these sessions being the fact that developing nations are the most vulnerable to the insatiable appetite of the first world for energy and resources and its resultant carbon footprint’s effect on greenhouse gasses.
Another interesting and informative topic was that of food justice. Like all environmental issues, the complexity of this one in particular included the relationship of the livestock and agricultural industries and their effect on the environment; from the way animals are inhumanely tortured for our consumption, the intensive strain on resources such as water and fossil fuels that further perpetuates environmental degradation, and the dangers and social implications of genetic modification by multinational corporations such as Monsanto.
 Next, the idea of a “green economy” was particularly informative and will be at the cornerstone of moving from an economic infrastructure based on fossil fuel consumption towards renewable energy. The green economy as defined by the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) is one that results in "improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities… is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”
     Finally, the networking aspect of the convention was invaluable; as such occurred a conglomeration of the most impassioned and driven individuals of this movement who spent forty eight hours together and took their new connections beyond the boundaries of Pittsburgh for a future of progressive collaboration.

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