Power Shift Stories

Since 2007, Energy Action Coalition has hosted four national Power Shift convergences, bringing tens of thousands of young people together. At Power Shift, people have planned campaigns, made lifelong friends, and launched their careers. Here are just a few of those thousands of Power Shift stories.

Have you attended Power Shift? Click here to share your Power Shift story.

Power Shift 2009

 

Natalie Mebane
Associate Washington Representative, Our Wild America Campaign, Sierra Club
Power Shift 2007 Attendee

Natalie Mebane When the first Power Shift took place in November 2007, I had just graduated from the University of Maryland and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my environmental science and policy degree. When I got to Power Shift on the first day, I walked into a room of about 6,000 young people. Reverend Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus was on stage shouting “Fight the Power! Fight the Power!” with the whole room responding. I thought, “What have I walked into?”

At that point, I hadn’t really heard of the youth climate movement and I hadn’t been involved in organizing at all. That changed at Power Shift. It was where I learned what grassroots organizing was — and that there was this youth climate movement that was taking on the world. Van Jones and Majora Carter both spoke at Power Shift 2007. That was the first time I heard leaders who perfectly aligned social justice with environmental issues. It always seemed like you needed to choose between the environment or social issues, like they were always in conflict. When I heard Van Jones talk about having “one movement,” and then when Majora Carter led the crowd in a chant of “Green Jobs, Not Jails!” I realized that environmentalism and social justice were one and the same.

After a weekend of workshops, speeches, and panels, Power Shift concluded with a major lobby day to push Congress to pass a bill that would get us to 80% below 1990 carbon emissions by 2050. I’d always thought of lobbying as something that corporations did, not regular people. Since I lived in the DC area, the government never felt far away. But this was the first time I had ever felt like I could influence it. Power Shift showed me how we could combine powerful grassroots organizing with lobbying on the Hill to make the change we want to see. I’ll always remember the excitement of all those young people who, after our huge rally, went into Congressional offices telling their Senators and Representatives exactly what they wanted.

From then on, whenever I got a chance, I would do lobby days and hill drops with EAC just for fun. Now I get to do it as a career. Power Shift introduced me to grassroots organizing and started up my career. It showed me the power we have as a movement to create the world that we want. And I’ve been working with that movement ever since.

Dan Cannon
Senior National Organizer, Greenpeace USA
First Power Shift: 2007 

Dan Cannon I was an environmental studies major in the geography department at Slippery Rock University, and president of the geography club. One day, someone came up to me and showed me an ad in a magazine for a youth conference called Power Shift 2007. It was supposed to bring over 5,000 people from across the country together to talk about environmental issues and to fight climate change. The geography club packed about 3 cars full of people and off we went.

We really didn't know what to expect at Power Shift, but I was blown away when I got there. I felt this sense of place at the conference. It was an amazing feeling, because I was surrounded by young people just like myself who cared super passionately about the environment, and were so concerned about climate change that they, too, were willing to travel hundreds of miles to Power Shift. I was so inspired by all the speakers and workshops. I met Judy Bonds, I met Bill McKibben, and I listened to Van Jones talk about how the conference was the start of the most powerful and largest grassroots movement ever.

Most of Power Shift was focused on the movement and organizing. It was so inspiring hearing young people talk about creating large, positive environmental change in their communities and on their campuses. In all honesty, though: the longer I was at the conference, the angrier I got. These students and young people were just like me, except for two things: they were part of this thing called a movement, and they understood what this thing was called organizing. I thought: why was I not organizing? Why was I not a part of this larger movement? How could I sit in class every day and learn about climate change and not do one thing?

The conference politicized me. It showed me what a grassroots movement was, and what it was capable of. My friends and I left inspired and motivated, but also angry. We were determined to go back and take action on our campus. During the conference, we had networked with students across the nation and found out about green fees. We'd also learned how to run a successful grassroots campaign. After the conference, we decided we wanted a green fee on our campus, and created the Green Fund campaign at Slippery Rock University.

Through a semester-long campaign, my friends and I gathered more than 800 petitions — forcing our student government, who did not want to take a stance on the issue, to hold a referendum. 86% of voting students agreed to pay $5 a semester to support green projects on our campus!The campaign took over my life — and I was OK with it. I dropped a biology minor that I was one class away from completing because I needed to spend more time on the campaign. We met with administrators and presented to the university board of trustees. In the end, we successfully got our university president's approval for the Green Fund. Today, $80,000 is set aside annually for environmental projects at Slippery Rock.

Power Shift 2007 inspired me to run the Green Fund campaign. And when we successfully implemented the Green Fund at Slippery Rock, I knew organizing was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And here I am today: a professional organizer!Because of Power Shift 2007, I am an organizer. It's the reason why I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping build the movement and fight climate change.

Rob FriedmanRob Friedman
Campaigner, Natural Resources Defense Council; Board member, Energy Action Coalition
First Power Shift: 2007

Power Shift 2007 was the first time I realized that I wasn't alone. It was fall of my freshman year of college and I had just arrived at Bates College excited to dig into campus organizing and academics. What I found at PS '07 was my tribe, the community that has helped me grow into the Campaigner I am today.

I have attended every subsequent national Power Shift, and at each one, my analysis of what it means to be a climate justice advocate grows. The work to address climate change and systemic injustice is hard and it can be difficult to keep going in the face of infrequent victories. Power Shift has become a homecoming for me — when the ever-growing movement family gets back together to build a vision for a more just and sustainable future.

Even if just for a long weekend, the feeling I get when walking through the doors, or listening to speeches in the main plenary hall... that's the energy that I want to carry with me always. Coming back to subsequent Power Shifts always felt like a bit of a reintroduction to the heart and soul of the national youth movement.

Yes, we've had some really complicated, painful moments together. But we've also had some crucial moments of introspection and growth. A lot of people wouldn't be doing the work they are today if not for attending a Power Shift. It's amazing to look back at PS '07, now many moons ago, and reflect that it was the moment that really crystallized what it means to be a part of this movement — all the messiness, the tears of joy and pain. Onwards!

Power Shift 2013

Jeremy Blanchard
First Power Shift: 2009

When I woke up to the reality of climate change, I switched my major to Environmental Studies and started looking for ways I could contribute. I was invited to be a campus recruiter for Power Shift 2009, and having never even heard of something called "campus organizing" before, I was terrified at the idea of saying yes. If it weren't for an EAC partner organizer following up with me and encouraging me, I would've talked myself out of it. With that encouragement to light my fire, I said yes. We flew 23 people from Oregon to Washington DC and raised money for all of their flights because we knew that we could find the resources, knowledge, and connections to actually make the change we knew was possible.

I was amazed at what I found there. The skills I got in telling stories that inspire action, campaign planning, and anti oppression. But more than any of the skills, I saw how incredibly powerful young people already are. There are 12,000 people with the same vision in their heart that I have?! I was blown away.

A flurry of events sprung forth from that convergence. I went to the Sierra Student Coalition's week long organizing training to hone my skills. I became the co-director for Power Shift West 2009 that brought over 500 more youth together (it was the biggest of the regional Power Shift events that year). Out of that energy, sprung a student group on the University of Oregon campus that remains one of the most active and powerful groups on campus (they're doing an ongoing 3-week sit-in to end fossil fuel investment as I write this).

I'm now a Life & Leadership Coach for Changemakers and the Director of Coaching for Social Change, an organization dedicated to bringing success and empowerment skills to people who are leading movements for justice and social change. 5 of our 6 founders all knew each other because of the networks created at Power Shift.

Power Shift sparked a powerful vision in my heart of what was possible by being a part of this moment. All of the contributions I'm making in my life stem from the moment I said yes to being a campus recruiter.

Zachary Stark-MacMillan
First Power Shift: 2009

Power Shift 2009 showed me that I could be apart of a movement. Before that, I wanted to make a difference—but had no idea how to get started. I thought I had to wait until I was older.

A friend was going to Power Shift and I decided to try it out. Seeing all the other students who were engaged in their campuses and communities confronting serious issues was eye opening. I realized I didn't have to wait until I was older to make a difference. I could do it as a student, and there was support and other people to do it with me. At Power Shift, I connected with other people in Oregon and Washington who have since become lifelong friends!

In just the few years after Power Shift 2009 I organized Power Shift West 2009, started a student group that's still going strong, traveled to COP15, trained hundreds of other students on organizing, and much more. I became an activist and an organizer. Power Shift changed changed the entire arc of my life. I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Harry Waisbren
First Power Shift: 2009

When I first went to Power Shift, I did not know what to expect. Little did I know that the experience would set the stage for my political awakening. It wasn't just that I saw first hand what young people dedicated to saving the world could accomplish when we come together. It's that I made lasting connections and learned enlightening lessons along the way. Shifting the power of societies punch drunk on fossil fuels can be daunting if not frightening. But convergences like these make me believe we can truly win the better world we know is possible.

Eriqah Vincent
First Power Shift: 2009

I went to my first Power Shift in 2009. I felt the power and electricity (no puns intended) in the convention center from the moment I stepped in. The opening plenary inspired me on the first night, as did the sessions to follow in the days to come. At the time, I was a sophomore in college and was not sure what I wanted to do. After Power Shift, I knew I wanted to refocus my future to save the planet and the people on it. Power Shift changed my life.

Erika Lygren
First Power Shift: 2013

Power Shift 2013 gave me hope, plain and simple. I was lacking it before, but after Power Shift, I left with a large reserve of hope to come back to whenever cynicism or critique of environmental thought got me down. I can now look to other people and say, "Look, there's this movement going on, and it's got momentum. I've seen it at its best. I know that it will be a force to be reckoned with."

Elizabeth Anderson
First Power Shift: 2011

I attended Power Shift 2011 and 2013, as well as the regional Power Shift in New York in 2012. Most people at my college didn't care about sustainability. But every time I went, Power Shift showed me that I was not alone. It also gave me leadership tools, exposing me to new ideas such as environmental justice, and being able to listen to my environmental heroes and heroines.

Have you attended Power Shift? Click here to share your Power Shift story.

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