Students attend Powershift environmental conference

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By Austin Andersen

When I registered for Powershift 2013, an environmental conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., I knew that I would be participating in workshops and lectures providing me with the tools to fight the multi-dimensional monster that is climate change.

Looking back on this amazingly enlightening and empowering weekend I shared with 15 other Union students, I can say that preconception was undoubtedly true.

However, what I personally took away from this conference far transcended the theoretical skills and knowledge necessary to achieve victory for the environmental movement. That something was inspiration.

This inspiration is a call to action that radiated from the faces of the 8,000 idealistic individuals from every imaginable background and corner of our country that participated in Powershift this past weekend.

So what did we learn?

In a nutshell, we learned how to direct our passion and inspiration towards productivity and progress.

For example, workshops and panels included presentations on non-violent direct action to combat the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will dissect our nation, delivering dirty tar-sands from Canada to the Gulf for international export.

There were United Nations climate negotiation round-tables where students and mentors gathered to discuss solutions to global climate change.

The most unsettling issue discussed in these sessions was the fact that developing nations are the most vulnerable to the insatiable energy appetite of the first world, which results in a large carbon footprint and an increase of greenhouse gasses.

Another informative topic was food justice. The complexity of this issue in particular included the relationship of the livestock and agricultural industries and their effect on the environment; the way animals are inhumanely tortured for our consumption, the intensive strain on resources such as water and fossil fuels that further perpetuates environmental degradation and the dangers and social implications of genetic modification by multinational corporations such as Monsanto.

Next, the idea of a “green economy” was particularly informative and will be at the cornerstone of moving from an economic infrastructure based on fossil fuel consumption towards renewable energy.

A green economy, as defined by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) is one that “results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, … is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”

Finally, the networking aspect of the convention was invaluable; a conglomeration of the most impassioned and driven individuals of this movement spent 48 hours together and took their new connections beyond the boundaries of Pittsburgh for a future of progressive collaboration.

Ending the weekend were “state breakouts.” In the New York breakout, our agenda included fracking, divestment, local and sustainable food and responsible waste disposal.

Ahead of us looms a task that seems daunting, yet is by no means insurmountable.

I have an unwavering faith that it is our generation that will take on the burden left to us by those generations preceding us.

We are the agents of change that will redirect the flow of dissolution towards a future of progress and innovation.

This inspiration assures me that we will win.

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