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Column by Tate White
Beginning Friday, during the first 100 days of the Obama administrationâ€™s time in office, over 10,000 youth from across America will converge upon Capitol Hill in Washington to emphasize the necessity of bold climate and clean energy policy. The Energy Action Coalition, host of the event, was born out of recognition by forward-thinking youth of this countryâ€™s responsibility to explore alternative energy options. Seven thousand youth gathered for the first Power Shift in November 2007, where they rallied at Capitol Hill and met with senators and members of Congress to voice their concerns regarding what is being done, or the lack thereof, to combat climate change. Starting Friday, Power Shift 2009 will replicate the energies of its predecessor with reinvigorated efforts and a renewed purpose. The imminent presence of university students from Kentucky is fundamental and compelling.
The inaugural national youth climate summit in 2007 facilitated the networking of like-minded youth with regional connections. As a result, student leaders from Kentucky planned the formation of a Kentucky Student Environmental Action Coalition (KSEC) to extend the possibilities of regional coordination among environmental groups in higher education. Representatives from UK Greenthumb joined members of environmental organizations from Transylvania University, Murray State, Berea College, Kentucky State University and Western Kentucky University on Westernâ€™s campus in October of 2008 for KSECâ€™s first meeting. The passion among these young activists is tangible and KSECâ€™s formation has provided a venue through which members can apply these passions to grassroots activist ventures to exercise their leadership capabilities for the benefit of their campuses and surrounding communities.
Emily Gillespie, the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) student representative for Kentucky and current Western Kentucky student, composed a grant application to the Environmental Action Coalition, earning KSEC $6,000 to assist in bringing as many Kentucky studentsâ€”from what is considered an underrepresented stateâ€”as possible to our nationâ€™s capital for Power Shift 2009. Two large buses have been chartered as a result to depart from Lexington Thursday night, transporting over 100 Kentucky students to D.C. for the largest gathering in America, thus far, addressing the climate crisis.
The weekend will be filled with workshops and panels on a multitude of topics, ranging from fundraising and creative activism to achieving environmental justice through economic justice, as well as a variety of prestigious speakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, bestselling author of the â€œGreen Collar Economyâ€ Van Jones and Kentuckyâ€™s own Marcie Smith. A Richmond, Ky., native, Smith founded Transylvaniaâ€™s environmental action group, TERRA, as a sophomore and can boast an overwhelmingly impressive resumÃ©. As an active member of UK Greenthumb and KSEC, I am honored to have worked with people like Smith as part of my undergraduate experience and look forward to traveling to Washington with other Kentucky students to challenge our political leaders to pursue what is both scientifically and economically plausible and necessary for a better future.
Tate White is a geography and international studies senior. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.