Last weekend, 40 University of Mary Washington students joined over 6,000 young adults from around the country in Washington D.C. for Power Shift 2007, a summit aimed at solving environmental and energy problems. Members of the University’s Ecology Club organized the trip to the three-day conference as part of their efforts to educate others on environmental issues and implement policy changes on campus.
Power Shift incorporated youth-led panels on climate change, hundreds of workshops and guest speakers including Ralph Nader and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Ecology Club co-president, Lauren Birney, attended a number of workshops focused on learning how to implement improved environmental policies on college campuses. She said Power Shift was an experience that reminded her and others that environmentalism is a growing movement.
“I think events like Power Shift are important because they are inspiring to young people and give them the tools they need to understand how they can best use their time, talent and energy to make big changes on their campuses and in their communities,” Birney said.
Virginia was one of the states with the highest number of students in attendance. All students from schools in Virginia had the opportunity to meet at a panel to discuss a course of action at their campus.
The UMW Ecology Club recently organized a Light Bulb Exchange to have students become more involved in conservation. Over the next week, students can exchange their light bulbs for free compact fluorescent bulbs.
“It’s our hope that this will be a first step to introducing people to the idea to changing their behaviors–but it is only a first step,” Birney said. “Changing a light bulb is not going to fix our environmental crisis.”
The weekend’s events culminated with a rally on Capitol Hill Monday afternoon, to push for more legislation cutting carbon emissions. The rally was the largest global warming rally to date in Washington D.C., with over 2,000 participants.
Another protest at a DC Citibank over the bank’s investments in coal included over 300 people and shut down the bank for the day.
Sophomore and Ecology club officer Laura Pilati attended the rally. She said that the rally, as well as the green constructions helmets participants wore throughout the day, was an opportunity to educate others.
“It gave you a chance to tell people about the movement,” she said. “I think it made people in that area more aware of what’s going on in the world. It was cool to be part of something so historically significant.”
Energy Action Coalition organized the summit. According to Communications Director Brianna Cotter, it has not been decided if their will be another national summit next year.
“We do know that over the next year the amazing youth leaders in our coalition and that came to Power Shift will be working hard to avert the climate crisis in a myriad of ways,” Cotter said.
Regional summits will be organized next spring.
Birney and other club members said they will continue to work on environmental changes on campus with the new strategies they learned at the conference.
“We want to educate people on the long-term benefits of reducing their energy and resource consumption, changing to alternative energy sources and being smart about what products you consume as a whole,” Birney said. “In the future we will continue doing campaigns of this sort as well as direct action on campus to tell the administration that we want to see changes made to energy policy right here at UMW.”