Story posted April 28, 2011
At 4 a.m. on Friday April 15th, a van of Bowdoin students departed campus to make the trek down to Washington D.C. for Power Shift 2011, a conference and grassroots training for more than 10,000 young people from all over the country. The students who attended came from all sorts of environmental backgrounds; many were members of the Bowdoin Evergreens and Green Global Initiatives, along with some students who had not yet been involved in climate activism on the Bowdoin campus.
The weekend started off with a powerful call to action, with speeches from former Vice President Al Gore and green jobs leader and environmental justice pioneer Van Jones. Al Gore issued a challenge to young people to solve the environmental crisis, echoing JFK’s challenge fifty years ago to put a man on the moon within ten years. Despite the skepticism of many, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon in just over eight years. Van Jones added that, “if you have a laptop or a smart phone or an iPad you have more and better computing power than the entire US government did when they put a man on the moon.” As Bowdoin participant Chris Jayne ’13 said, these comparisons “convinced me that the young generations of America are obligated to proactively do everything we can to stop climate change.”
Saturday began a series of movement building sessions that aimed to share ideas and train the participants in the basics of grassroots organizing so that they would be better prepared to lead when they returned to their communities. In the afternoon, students split into panels, workshops and trainings on topics including “the human rights of climate change,” “religious environmental activism,” and “financial strategies for building the green economy.” The day ended with empowering words from EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, the founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben and activist Tim DeChristopher.
After finishing off the weekend with more movement building sessions on Sunday morning, Bowdoin students left D.C. to make it back for Monday morning classes and exams. Participants left feeling inspired and wished they were able to stay and join the 5,000 who would be marching and lobbying Congress. Evergreens co-leader, Jane Carpenter, said of the experience "It was incredibly inspiring to walk into the convention center and see 10,000 other students from across the country who, like me, are passionate about addressing climate change. Talking with students from other schools gave me confidence that we can do more to address the issue here in Maine and specifically at Bowdoin." Still feeling the momentum and energy from the conference, Bowdoin's Power Shift group reconvened back on campus, joined by others, to discuss what students could do to be more involved in meeting Bowdoin’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2020. Look for more from this group when classes resume in the fall - calling themselves Bowdoin Students for Carbon Neutrality.
"It was incredibly inspiring to walk into the convention center and see 10,000 other students from across the country who, like me, are passionate about addressing climate change." - Jane Carpenter