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Friday, February 27, 2009

PowerShift 2009: 12,000 Young People Arriving in DC to Repower, Reclaim Their Future

I've just arrived at Power Shift 2009, the largest gathering of citizens fighting for a clean energy future in United States history. The conference, organized by the Energy Action Coalition, is bringing together nearly 12,000 young people from all over the country to harness resources, make connections and take action to repower and reclaim their futures.

Power Shift 2009 offers a unique look at the normally widely distributed and networked youth climate and clean energy movement, the largest and most well-organized youth movement in decades. I'll be reporting for the Energy Collective and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary throughout this historic gathering of young climate and clean energy activists, which begins today and runs through Monday, March 2nd, but here is a preview of what's ahead:

: Power Shift attendants will hear from a remarkable range of speakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Obama administration members, like EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, green jobs visionaries Van Jones and Majora Carter, politicos like John Podesta, and of course, top young leaders from across the youth climate movement.

Workshops and Trainings: Attendees will arm themselves with skills and knowledge at dozens of workshops on everything from how to use new media tools to enhance campaign and online activism to how to effectively talk to press and elected officials.

Diversity of Actions - From Lobby Day to Dirty Energy Protests: Of course, these young climate and clean energy advocates are not content to merely learn, network and discuss, they are committed to powerful action to repower and reclaim their energy future. That's why the weekend will culminate in two historic actions on March 2nd. First, over 5,000 Power Shifters are expected to storm Capitol Hill on Monday for the largest citizen lobby day on climate change in U.S. history. That's not just largest for young people, but the largest citizen lobby day on climate, period.

These dedicated young people will get prepped on the up-to-the-minute political situation in Congress, be trained to head inside "the belly of the beast" itself and then deliver their concerns and recommend solutions straight to their representatives.

I was there at Power Shift 2007's lobby day, when, for more than six hours, the halls of every Congressional office building was filled with young Power Shift attendees, some in suits, some in Power Shift T-Shirts, some wearing green hard hats (symbolizing the green jobs and clean energy future they were lobbying for). They took over the halls of Congress for an entire day, and they clearly made a powerful impression on staff and members of Congress alike, many of whom frequently poked their heads out just to see what was going on. When was the last time you had young people taking anything like that level of engagement with Congress?

And on the very same day, after Power Shift Lobby Day has subsided, there will be a coordinated, symbolic "direct action" that makes it clear that young people are also willing to put their bodies on the line, when necessary, to defend their future. Independent from Power Shift and separately organized by a coalition of allied organizations, the Capitol Climate Action will be the largest act of civil disobedience protesting dirty energy and calling for a transition to a clean, just energy economy in U.S. history. Located at the site of a power plant that heats and lights the Capitol complex using a mix of coal and natural gas, the mass civil disobedience will take a powerful symbolic stand against dirty energy sources, as over 2,500 people, both young and old, are expected to turn out on Monday.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this coming weekend is the diversity of tactics on display, a hallmark of the savvy and strategic youth climate and clean energy movement: from mass civil disobedience to savvy lobbying inside the Capitol itself, the 12,000 young people coming to Power Shift 2009, and the hundreds of thousands of youth climate and energy activists organizing around the country, are well organized, well trained, and full of passion to build a clean, prosperous and more just energy economy in America and the world.

Join us at the Energy Collective and here at WattHead over the coming days for a look at the events unfolding at Power Shift 2009...

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