St. Mary's Students Participate in 'Powershift'

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On the weekend of Oct. 18, 20 St. Mary’s students traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the annual Powershift Conference, previously held in Washington, D.C.

A conference based around environmental activism, Powershift’s primary goal is to encourage, train, and inspire the next generation of Americans to work towards a cleaner, greener tomorrow. Powershift’s name is a sort of play on words, as their goal is shifting power away from corporate destruction of the environment and to a new, eco-conscious youth movement, and a shift in priorities from fossil fuel use to a new, green future. According to the organization’s website, “catastrophic climate change threatens our future unlike any other generation;” thus, responding to that threat must be the goal of the millennial generation.

A self-described grassroots-driven community and activist forum, the movement sprung out of an online site, wearepowershift.org, but began holding regular conferences after gaining momentum. People from all walks of life went to the conference to attend over two hundred panels, workshops, and teachings designed around helping create a new generation of leaders. Among the key topics covered at this year’s conference are the Keystone Oil Pipeline, fracking, and mountaintop removal: each are urgent issues facing the millennial generation.

Many of the speakers at the conference, while relatively unknown outside of the environmental activism sphere, are considered a rockstar lineup within their circles, including Tom Steyer, the CEO of Next Generation Climate Action, and Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

Senior Ashok Chandwaney, a St. Mary’s senior and a panel speaker leading the “Who Needs Congress Anyways?” panel, says “You learn things and bring them back… [We] will be the ones alive to live with the consequences of climate disruption.” He greatly emphasizes the need for greater involvement and interest among the campus community.

In past years, Chandwaney says that Powershift has been a very empowering experience for aspirant leaders and those who want to effect positive change in the St. Mary’s Community. The student leaders of the 2012 Living Wage campaign were all former attendees, and they were trained and inspired by it. This year, they hope to bring back such experiences again, in the hopes of promoting further change on campus.

The Conference ends with a giant protest to “make our voices heard,” rallying the attendees around a specific cause, which this year will likely focus on the environmental damage caused by fracking, but the information is currently unreleased.

For information about or registration for next year’s Powershift conference in Pittsburg, check Powershift’s website (www.wearepowershift.org) periodically over the next year or sign up with the organizaion to get updates.

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