America’s young people will be integral part of Power Shift 2009

Column by Tate White

Beginning Friday, during the first 100 days of the Obama administration’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 country’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 Western’s campus in October of 2008 for KSEC’s first meeting. The passion among these young activists is tangible and KSEC’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 students—from what is considered an underrepresented state—as possible to our nation’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 “Green Collar Economy” Van Jones and Kentucky’s own Marcie Smith. A Richmond, Ky., native, Smith founded Transylvania’s environmental action group, TERRA, as a sophomore and can boast an overwhelmingly impressive resumé. 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

Referring to “the misguided optimism of young people who are made pawns in a movement they are overly excited about being a part of only because they lack sufficient wisdom and experience to recognize the true nature of the movement” is offensive in and of itself – the fact that you would make generalizations about 10,000 separate individuals (many of whom represent significantly different backgrounds and approaches to environmentalism) is insulting, not to mention it shows a terrible grasp of the reality of global climate change and the necessity of developing renewable energy alternatives.

And do tell, what exactly is the ‘true nature of the movement’ since you are apparently the arbiter of all that is well and good in the world of social movements and cultural politics?

The reference is to the Hitler Youth (not to Adolph Hitler or adult Nazi’s) and to the misguided optimism of young people who are made pawns in a movement they are overly excited about being a part of only because they lack sufficient wisdom and experience to recognize the true nature of the movement.

Despite your failure to perceive it, I squarely commented on the real issue.

If you want to be offended by a comparison that suggests a parallel between the erroneously optimistic political climate in Germany during the 1920’s and 1930’s and the notion captured by the phrase “Power Shift 2009,” then so be it. But, it’s a dead-on comparison, not a flippant generalization.