Reconciliation As Revolutionby Colette Cosner
The Washington Convention Center is overflowing with an estimated 12,000 young people, energized and ready to be a part of Power Shift ‘09. Within minutes of registration I met two amazing youth activists with the Sierra Student Coalition. They have been organizing on opposite sides of the country, and like many student organizers, are utilizing Power Shift ’09 as a place to celebrate their cross-country connections. Katherine McEachman brought 90 students with her from Cornell University and Juan Martinez flew all the way from Los Angeles to meet up with his fellow Sierra Student Coalition activists. The cross-section of these two youth climate activists embodies the spirit of this unique event. Between Katherine’s work with PowerVote, organizing Cornell students to vote for climate change champions in the new administration, and Juan’s work in his LA community, collecting over 1,000 signatures for Green For All's green economy initiatives--they represent the new generation of climate change activists who not only see, but celebrate, their differences.
I had the opportunity to meet Marcie Smith, a senior at Translyvania University in Kentucky and one of Power Shift’s featured speakers. She arrived last night with 160 of her TU peers. She has been working with Kentucky’s treasury secretary to found the Kentucky Clean Energy Corps, based out of Lexington, KT. The pilot program kicks off in March and will make 100 low-income homes more energy efficient. The program, which began last Thursday, has an initial investment of $1 million, but expects return estimates of up to $118 million in energy savings, creating 3,000 new jobs.
Marcie commented that the innovative program is being recognized in Washington, DC but that the true victory is in its local impact. Lexington is one of the most impoverished areas in the country, with skyrocketing unemployment and a staggering carbon footprint. She sees the program addressing both issues, the failing economy and the unsustainable carbon emissions. Although the weatherization volunteer corps are mostly students, Marcie’s organization, TERRA, upholds a particular philosophy about the importance of community building as the central focus of climate justice. For that reason, they initiated the “Trash Cantina”, a community art project focused on painting trash cans for recycling bins.
Marcie elaborated,“Climate change is a symptom of much older and much deeper inequities and we cannot effectively deal with climate change without striking at the root. We have to recognize that the climate movement is about restoring communities, that our fates are inextricably related to one another.” She continued, “People are inclined toward the concept of seeing our neighbors as ourselves, but climate issues indicate a break in that concept.”
It's expected that the Power Shift '09 Lobby Day, March 2nd, will be the largest lobby day on climate and energy in US history. Marcie has an insider’s understanding of the true impact of such grassroots lobbying efforts because of her time as an intern for Congressman Ben Chandler. “History books may not record the house bill number that we are agitating for, but history will remember the collective intention of this group. 12,000 young people are certainly a force to be reckoned with. And I think what is amazing about this movement is that these 12,00 young people are voices for reconciliation.”
Historically, the environmental movement has been relatively insular. The reconciliation Marcie sees such promise in can be seen where climate justice groups intersect with other social movements, such as labor unions and women’s rights groups.
The future of the green movement lies in emphasizing a holistic concept of justice. The students gathered here are sharing their visions for such an expanded climate justice movement, connecting their local initiatives with a collective moral intention that demands the attention of their peers, their elected representatives, and the world.
Labels: climate change, Climate Solutions, environmentalism, Marcie Smith, movement-building, Power Shift 09, powershift09, reconciliation, solutions, students, yes, yes magazine, youth, youth movement