Power Shift 2013: Students going green


By Heather Mendiola

On Oct. 18, over 10-thousand youth environmental activists from around the country will convene in Pittsburgh, Pa. for three days of panels, workshops, collaboration and action on the environmental issues affecting us globally, nationally and communally.

There are 16 Union students fundraising in the hopes of attend this conference. Youth activists from across the country will share their organizing successes and failures in workshops and learn new ways to engage their peers.

Attendees will also hear from renowned environmental leaders such as Bill McKibben, Michael Brune and Josh Fox.

Power Shift’s location was changed from its usual location in Washington, D.C. because Pittsburgh is at a crossroads, fighting for a green future while still dealing with the fracking industry.

Power Shift 2013 hopes to build a stronger, more vibrant climate movement to fight fracking and divestment from fossil fuels and build a clean-energy economy.

Youth will come together to launch a new campaign for our communities, states and regions. They will coordinate across the nation, dividing states’ issues and other areas of interest, to then plan future moves.

Union students have diligently been working to raise enough money to attend this conference in hopes of “building diverse coalitions, training on effective strategies for grassroots community organizing, sharing solutions and meeting with our elected officials, in order to bring this knowledge back to campus and Schenectady,” according to Rachel Ross ‘14.

These 16 Union students are at the front of the green movement on campus with all members active in Environmental Club, USustain and Ozone House.

On campus, we have many green movements already in action, some of which include composting in dining halls, Do It In The Dark, Octopus’s Garden, Ozone Café, Green Grants, Recycle Mania and the latest achievement of the Peter Irving Wold building being certified at LEED Gold.

However, students want to get the collective student body more involved.

Olivia Williamson ‘16 shared her thoughts on how Power Shift will help with this goal. She stated, “I want to learn from my peers how to implement change that is actually effective on youth so I can come back to Union and create lasting, positive change on the student body’s attitude toward environmentalism as a whole.” Other students embarking on this journey to Pittsburgh feel similarly.

Annie Nelson ‘15 said, “I want to see a wider array of students involved in campus sustainability at Union.”

Sonia Sandoval ‘15 believes that “Power Shift teaches those tired of waiting for environmental justice how to act efficiently in order to achieve the changes we desperately need.”

All the students taking this trip to Power Shift are passionate about the environment and solving the problems it faces, even if they do not understand the larger scope of the issues at hand.

Devon Webster ‘17 revealed her wish to better understand climate change so she may help Union play its role in a sustainable future.

“When I meet other young people whose eyes light up with fiery passion when they talk about the stat of our planet, I feel alive,” she said. “I feel inspired. I know that we have a big job, but more importantly I know we’ll get it done.”

Through the passion and love for the environment that radiates from these youth activists, I am certain greater change will happen on our campus. The 2013 Strategic Plan of Union College states, “Union students, faculty and staff will contribute to the improvement of the human condition, both locally and globally. As intellectually engaged, innovative and open-minded citizens of the world, they will, as Eliphalet Nott urged his students, carry their humanity with them into that world.”

These 16 students embody this message with their strive to attend this conference and connect it with the growing fervor to go green across the country.

They want to bring it back to campus so that they may share it with the rest of the student body, in hopes of achieving a completely sustainable campus community and world.


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