by Sheridan Boyle, guest writer
Powershift is a climate change-oriented student convergence that occurs every two years. Though usually taking place in Washington D.C., this year Powershift set its sights on Pennsylvania – a state that has long been a victim of intensive fracking for natural gas. On October 18, the Environmental Justice Crew and 25 other students began a nine-hour drive to Pittsburgh, where they joined more than 10,000 climate-concerned students and activists. They partook in countless workshops, panels, films, discussions, and even a couple of concerts over the course of the weekend. Powershift ended with a rally on Monday October 21. Students and activists lined the streets of Pittsburgh, demanding an end to the use and excavation of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Below are some reflections from the Warren Wilson students who attended the convergence:
“Powershift was an amazing event where people from all over the country came together to discuss climate change and all the issues that affect climate change. It was moving to see so many people come together and hear their ideas hopes, fears, and questions about the future of our planet. The most powerful thing to me was to be apart of the march against turning Pittsburgh parks into areas for fracking. Walking in solidarity with hundreds of people representing an international issue and fighting for a healthier planet was absolutely profound.” – Barley Colello
“Despite criticism of Powershift citing the high entry fees ($25-80 for student registration) and near complete omission of deep ecology/animal rights, I thought Powershift was the ‘badonkadonk.’ It illuminates much more than renewable energy issues, ranging from panels like ‘the School to Prison Pipeline,’ ‘Challenging Male Supremacy, ‘‘Rethinking Economics,’ and even a talk from Bill McKibben. That being said, there’s much more to Powershift than talks, panels, and workshops. Over the course of our stay in Pittsburgh, we had the opportunity to participate in multiple protests and actions—and even some impromptu square dancing and moshing to Talib Kweli.” –Ben Lithicum
“The march was the most powerful and thrilling experience of the conference. I always saw demonstrators on T.V. and never understood why people marched and protested. Now I have lived it, understanding why people scream and dance, because they feel so passionate about these issues. We are really trying to get the attention of the general public.” – Jasmine Woo
“Powershift has left me more informed and way more pissed off about our current environmental crisis. I have realized that we may be green at Wilson, but not really green enough.” – Chris Cree
“Shedding light on the connections between social (class, gender, race) justice and environmental issues was far more prominent this year at Powershift. I really appreciated the panels and workshops I attended, which tied together issues and how they all fall under a greater system of oppression via our patriarchal divide-and-conquer mentality. There is much work to be done, and it starts with the self. When we can free ourselves of mindless participation and transcend the binaries and factions disempowering us, we can then collectively organize as a tribe of local, regional, national, and global illuminated souls ready to shift the power dynamic.” – Olivia Franzen
“I really appreciated that there were so many panels and workshops offered on social issues, not just environmental issues. I was glad we all got to experience the march and turn some of our newly gained knowledge into action.” – Mariana Keene
“I learned a lot at Powershift 2013. I was pleased to learn a lot about social issues that have indirect impact on the environment. Bringing people together to talk about a good cause – even if everyone goes home and does nothing – is always a good thing.” –Jeremy Taylor
“Powershift was a mixed experience for me. I had an amazing time reconnecting with friends whom I had not seen for a long time and going to see some workshops. However, it was hard to see what voices were still silenced at the conference.” – Eva Westheimer
“Powershift made a strong effort to not only address environmental justice, but also examined the intersectionality of climate change and environmental exploitation with issues of poverty, systemic racism, capitalism, patriarchy, oppression and privilege, and indigenous rights. I was glad to see that Powershift included far-leftist and radical environmental groups in addition to mainstream viewpoints, like Sierra Club and Bill McKibben, and embraced all forms of environmentalism – from advocacy and sustainable economics to blockades and monkey-wrenching. The enthusiasm during the march was incredibly powerful and I left Powershift reinvigorated and hopeful for the future of the environmental movement.” – Philip Papajcik
The Environmental Justice Crew would like to thank Glenn and Sherry Mack, as well as the First United Presbyterians Church of Crafton Heights for opening their doors to us and treating our group with such hospitality. We would also like to thank Paula Garrett, Steve Solnick, Cathy Kramer and the WPO for making this trip possible.