Alex Morris, senior editor
The weekend of Feb. 27- March 2 might have brought giant flakes of falling snow in our nation’s capitol, but this didn’t stop the record turnout of collegiate youth from all over America, including many Warren Wilson students, who travelled to Washington, D.C. to rally, lobby, and learn more about climate legislation and green jobs.
“You’ve put climate change on the agenda, now go and do it,” said Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-Md.) speaking to the crowd of 12,000 people in the convention center on Saturday night.
Edwards was one of several speakers who rallied the crowd. Massachusetts representative Edward Markey talked about oil, coal utility and automotive industries, declaring to the youth, “You are right and they are wrong!”
“The planet is running a fever, but there are no emergency room for planets,” he added.
The representatives were just two of many key note speakers, and Speaker of the House Nanci Pelosi was scheduled to speak as well during the weekend, but unfortunately the large amounts of snow delayed her flight. Environmental justice leaders Van Jones and Majora Carter spoke on Friday night.
While speeches and music took priority in the evenings of the long weekend, much planning, workshops, panels, lobbying, marches, direct action, and networking happened during the days.
Senior Jesse Woodruff-Duff is from Maryland, and Edwards is his home representative. Woodruff-Duff thought all of Power Shift was a “pretty empowering experience,” and liked that Edwards was working with high school student groups from the area, many of which he is familiar with.
On Monday he participated in direct action with the Capitol Climate Action Network outside of a coal power plant.
Woodruff-Duff said the protest was peaceful, no one got arrested, and the plant was shut down for the day. He added that Congress signed a bill of intent to convert the plant to natural gas.
One of Woodruff-Duff’s favorite aspects of the conference was when the crowd held a state breakout session.
“I got into a circle with Warren Wilson kids and Appalachian State and UNCA and we shared ideas about demonstrations against [local coal power plant] cliffside,” he said. “It was one small circle of people talking about one small issue, but there were groups like that all over the convention center blanketing issues like it all over the country.”
Senior Nina Otter attended Power Shift as well. Otter let a group of WWC students take her car back to Swannanoa early, while she stayed in D.C. through Sunday to talk to participators about Warren Wilson’s new initiative, INSULATE. Junior Noah Wilson talked as well.
INSULATE is a program initiated by Warren Wilson students that works to connect the college with the people of Swannnona. INSULATE helps locals save money on electricity and heating bills by auditing their homes.
“It was a really awesome presentation with around 100 students,” Otter said. “There was a huge buzz in the room and people seemed really inspired and were asking really good processed questions like ‘how can I do this at my school?”‘
She added that people from UNC Chapel Hill, UNCA, and Appalachian State have contacted her about the program, and Warren Wilson will host the colleges on April 11 for on-site training for INSULATE.
Otter said that Asheville’s House representative Heath Shuler talked with the group Monday morning in his office. Otter said that Brian Fitzpatrick, one of Shuler’s aids, wants Shuler to talk about the program on the House floor. She added that Shuler is coming to one of INSULATE’s work days over spring break.
Otter said of INSULATE, “it was a program that came out of Power Shift from last year, and it shows a tangible impact from the conference.”
“I got a bit of a different perspective in that I was one of the lobby day trainers,” said senior Gideon Burdick. “I didn’t really go to many of the workshops.”
Calling the conference “a bit of a pep rally at times,” what’s important, Burdick said, is that motivation is carried back to the college campuses. “Change isn’t going to happen in a weekend, you need commitments and follow throughs,” he said.
Sophomore Alissa Gore went to Power Shift in 2007 as well as this year. She particularly enjoyed a Sunday presentation called “Awakening the Dreamer Within,” but she said that she liked the 2007 Power Shift better.
Sophomore Sam Mershon went to both and felt similarly.
“This year was a lot less anti-corporate,” he said.
Mershon was referencing corporations like Google, Cliff Bar and the Wal-Mart Foundation that helped contribute to Power Shift funding.