August 18, 2016

Power Shift 2016: The Halfway Point

Two Power Shifts down, two more to go—here's what we've learned so far

“Thank you for an amazing weekend!” “This is fantastic!” These are the phrases that have given me bursts of energy in this marathon called Power Shift 2016.

In the past 34 days, we’ve hosted two regional Power Shifts: one in Philadelphia, Northeast Power Shift, and one in Detroit, Midwest Power Shift. Both—I’m happy to say—have been incredibly impactful weekends full of inspirational speakers, dynamic workshops, and transformative artistic expression of movement elders and youth alike.

Marchers at Power Shift 2016 Northeast in Philadelphia
At the March for a Clean Energy Revolution at Power Shift Northeast in Philadelphia this July. (Photo: James Basett-Cann)

Over the course of these two powerful weekends, speakers included participants from some national organizations. But more than anything, local voices and stories of their fight for a just, clean energy future really came through.

Like Emma Lockridge. Ms. Lockridge lives in Southwest Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code—the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan. She spoke candidly with all of the Power Shifters in the room about waking up in the middle of the night, in her home, unable to breathe and even put on a mask that she wears to protect her lungs. At Power Shift Midwest, she led a “Toxic Tour” of her neighborhood. Thirty Power Shifters were able to see some of the fossil fuel industry’s most destructive impacts up close, guided by a local leader who has dedicated much of her life to fighting them.

Emma Lockridge at Power Shift Midwest
Emma Lockridge at Power Shift Midwest (Photo: Zac Clark)

At Power Shift Northeast in Philadelphia, we heard from the co-founders of Urban Creators, who said that in 2009, they were told that Northern Philadelphia was not worth investing in. They didn’t listen to that advice. Instead, the group has dedicated the last seven years to enhancing their community. They took a garbage dump and turned it into four acres of community gardens, safe public spaces, and hubs for hyper-local entrepreneurship. I know I wasn’t the only one in the room who was inspired by their story of community organizing to promote social justice and transform a space.

There has been so much regional love, support and camaraderie in every room of each conference, I could practically taste it. This was the vision behind regional Power Shifts—and, in many ways, the vision behind the Power Shift Network.

That’s why it felt right to introduce the new Power Shift Network at Power Shift Northeast in Philadelphia. Like I wrote when we first announced this change, Energy Action Coalition had been calling itself “the hub of the youth climate movement” for more than ten years—but it became clear that we were no longer the right kind of hub that our movement needs in order to keep growing, evolving, and building the long-term power that will help us win the challenging fights ahead.

The national Power Shifts we’ve hosted in the past (as Energy Action Coalition) have been truly unique opportunities to bring the energy of thousands of young activists and organizers together in one place. So many people have told me that being at Power Shift made them feel like they were part of a movement like nothing else had, or that what they learned at Power Shift made them decide to dedicate their lives to fighting the climate crisis. I love hearing those stories.

But I’ve also heard people say that regional convergences teach people about their communities, infuse energy into local fights, and do a better job of building power for local campaigns when everyone goes back home.

As the Power Shift Network, we believe that in order to build a sustainable and powerful climate movement that wins, you need to invest in young climate activists—especially the folks who are organizing to stop pipelines from being built in their states, change local policies, and create a just, clean energy economy in their towns and cities. In other words, the movement we want to support—the movement we think can win—is one that’s creating real change in people's lives, not only focusing federal laws that we may or may not see the effects of in our lifetimes.

At Power Shift 2016 Midwest in Detroit
Power Shift Midwest in Detroit (Photo: Zac Clark)

I won’t say the convergences in Philadelphia and Detroit were perfect or easy—nothing in organizing is, especially the first time you try it. But when I hear a college freshman saying to a friend, “I feel so enlightened,” or when I watch an impromptu pipeline-fighting campaign team form over lunch, that keeps me going. I hope it’s the same for all of you.

Power Shift 2016 Southeast and West are up next, and I’m really looking forward to learning about all the badass organizing happening in Florida around making voting more accessible to traditionally underrepresented people, the fight for racial justice, and the struggles of our LGBTQ and non-binary identified communities.

I know that I am extremely lucky to be touring the country in this way. At each Power Shift so far, I’ve been inspired over and over again by the energy, dedication and soul of each region. I can’t wait to see that energy on display again in just a few weeks in Orlando—and to continuing to build this movement with you over the months and years to come.

Want to join us for the next Power Shift? Power Shift 2016 Southeast is coming to Orlando on September 9-11, 2016. Click here to register today!