National / News / March 4, 2009

10,000 converge for largest climate conference in U.S. history

Shortly after students at NYU were ending their occupation, two Knox students traveled to Washington D.C. for Power Shift 2009. Said to be the largest conference on climate change in the nation’s history, Power Shift brought 10,000 students and people together from Feb. 27 to March 2 to influence climate legislation during Obama’s first 100 days in office.

The conference focused on the young people of the nation and on acting now, in the early days of the new administration, because if new laws regarding clean energy and climate change are not put into legislation soon, it might be too late.

Junior Abby Pardick and senior Laurie Nowak attended the conference.

Pardick said, “[Sunday] was like the big day. I lobbied my home district and then we went to Dick Durbin’s office and got to speak with his environmental consultant.”

Pardick said the conference was set up with panels and workshops throughout each day, and then everyone would reconvene at night for keynote speakers, or the band that played Friday night. Keynote speakers included environmental justice advocate Majora Carter, Congressman Ed Markey, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. There were over 200 sessions, panels and workshops open for participants of the conference to attend, including topics such as “Addicted to Oil: America’s Struggle to Kick the Habit”, “Civil Rights, Hip-Hop, and the New Eco-Equity Movement”, “Faith, Justice, Morality, and Climate Change”, “Food Inc.”, “Media Bootcamp”, and “Sustaining our Activism for the Long-Run.”

One of the first optional events Pardick attended was called “Awakening the Dreamer”, a symposium “about raising awareness about environmental issues and how they connect to humanity as a whole,” she said. “It’ll be coming to Knox on the Sunday of Earth Week as well,” she said. Pardick wants to connect what she learns at the conference to things she can bring to the Knox-Galesburg community.

Pardick also met John Podesta, Knox class of ’71, who was part of Obama’s transition committee and is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank based in Washington, D.C. While other people at the conference were in workshops on Saturday, Pardick was taught how to lobby Congress.

One of the weekend’s biggest accomplishments, in Pardick’s opinion, was when PowerShift attendees shut down a coal plant for hours with a protest of civil disobedience.

“Capitol Climate Action had a rally and a march. We met in the park just south of the capitol and we marched to the coal plant and each group broke off, and we sat down and locked arms with people. As different groups got shut down, others would come back. No one got arrested,” she said. The Environmental News Service called this four-hour blockade “the largest display of civil disobedience on the climate crisis in U.S. history.”

Pardick said that it was very clear that all the people at the conference had the same goal in mind and the same intentions. “It was very clear that cap and trade and clean coal and nuclear energy were not alternative energy sources for America. Everyone there knew that those weren’t options.”

Annie Zak

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