President Obama meets with youth climate leaders

Guest blogger, Jeff Mann, online director of Energy Action Coalition, via WonkRoom.

Friday at the White House, President Obama met with twelve young leaders from across the country that are in town for Power Shift 2011, the youth clean energy and climate summit being attended by over 10,000 people.

The young leaders described the meeting as positive and expressed excitement about working with the Administration to transition America to 100 percent clean energy and protect the Clean Air Act. Courtney Hight, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition thanked the president for fighting to “save the Clean Air Act”:

It was a real testament to President Obama’s commitment to young people that he met with youth clean energy leaders today. We are thankful he fought to save the Clean Air Act. That’s the man we elected and we need him to stand strong and stand up to big polluters and safeguard America’s public health.

The young people expressed concerns with aspects of Obama’s energy policy, particularly ongoing reliance on dirty energy sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas. The young leaders also voiced concerns about continued subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

The President reminded the young leaders that they have the power to change this country. Grassroots organizing in communities and states will help move our nation on energy and climate.

“We’re conducting the largest grassroots organizing training in history, to prepare young leaders to go back to their communities and lead, and we’re calling on President Obama and Congress to join us in standing up to Big Polluters and creating a clean energy economy,” said Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition’s other co-director. “Young people know we need a clean energy policy not based on things that kill people, whether it’s dirty coal or dangerous nuclear,” Cowley added.

Maura Cowley tells CNN‘s Cody Combs:

“We saw the community organizer side of President Obama come out in this meeting,” said Maura Cowley, co-director of Power Shift. “I think we’re hoping it’s the beginning of a dialogue.”

Follow @PowerShift11 and @EnergyAction for updates.

Jeff Mann

21 Responses to President Obama meets with youth climate leaders

  1. If there is hope for the future, I suspect that it lies in the youth of our world awakening their not so wise elders to the reality of Global Warming.

    If there is to be a future,the youth of today are going to need to shame us grey hairs into making difficult decisions by staying in our faces forcing us to confront the truth.

    If our Youth are to have a life, then us Grey Hairs from Presidents & Legislators, Business Leaders & Faith Leaders, Opinion Makers & Everyday People need to be confronted with the facts that how we live in the present is consuming their ability to live in the future.

    It is encouraging to see our Youth refusing to let us steal their future.

  2. Powershift is completely remarkable–what energy! everyone is doing serious organizing training; these guys will be a force to be reckoned with

    If you’re in DC you can get a small taste Monday 10 a.m. Lafayette Square near the White House (and the US Chamber of Commerce). Judging from the giant puppets I’ve seen, it should be a beautiful protest

  3. Jacob H. says:

    The gender breakdown of this photograph is interesting.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    This is heartening, but you young people need to be prepared for an awakening: we don’t really have much of a democracy anymore, and the people in charge are about like the slaveowners of pre Civil War days, who also possessed great wealth. Obama may mean what he says on an abstract level, but he has been intimidated by their power, and might as well be a Republican. Our President, who gave us such great hopes, has promoted coal trains, opening more federal land to gas and coal development, tar sands pipelines, and offshore drilling. “Bridge fuel” is just a euphemism for “business as usual”. Call him on his bad actions the next time he tries to soothe you with words. Better than Bush is not good enough. He doesn’t work for us, or for your future, and I hope you all addressed him bluntly.

    Obama is right in saying that it’s on you to do this, since my generation has failed, and too many of us have become indifferent or selfish. Be prepared for many setbacks, and years of frustration. Use that to increase your determination. I don’t think that the members of Powershift will give up, but human nature is strange. Many of us did. You cannot. Romm and McKibben are good inspirations here.

  5. 350 Now says:

    Bill McKibben @2: Your talk at PowerShift Sat. night was so damn inspiring! In fact I woke up this morning thinking about it. I hope it will be posted online so that others may share the jolt of positive energy. Thanks for speaking for so many of us! As you said, we are NOT the radicals in this mix! I’m proud to be fighting the good fight with you and these good folks here at CP blog.

    (Btw, altho my blog name is 350Now, I’m not assoc. with his dot org. I have learned a ton of good stuff at his website!)

  6. richard pauli says:

    This was a thrilling event – and it is very telling that Obama met with them.

    The next big event will be Tuesday in the Supreme Court – where justices will hear a case that directly addresses global warming.

    Congress has failed, the President is doing all he can, and the courts have mostly been out of it till now. This may be the last gasp of finding a government solution.

    It is totally appropriate that PowerShift begins to show power. The message I see delivered to governments everywhere is to stand up, or get out of the way.

  7. Leif says:

    Mike Roddy, @ 4: … “my generation has failed.” Not.

    I think we deserve more credit than “failure” Mike. That the fight took longer than any of us realized in the 60s and on does not mean we have failed. Look around. Civil Rights. Gay and lesbian rights. Women’s equality. Human rights around the world. Respect for the environment. And so much more. I agree none of the above is complete and can be considered a total victory but all are far from failure. The battle lines are getting closer to “Black” and “White” and that is why the rhetoric is sharper. Guns get drawn quickly. A cornered foe fights dirty. Big money spent hundreds of millions of dollars to control the power and the best they could muster is the Tea Party with an uninspiring IQ average.

    Yes, we have not won, but we are far from losers.

  8. MapleLeaf says:

    Good for president Obama taking the time to meet with these inspirational people. I hope that he sincerely listened, and I hope that it was much more than just a photo op.

    Sad that today’s youth are now being tasked with the problem created by previous generations.

  9. paulm says:

    Good point @3 Jacob!

    I think a big mia group is older females for some reason. Younger ones are much more on the ball.

    For some reason the mother generation has not clicked in to the fact of the danger threatening their offspring.

    Why? Is it messaging… or something more fundamental?

    They would have a big impact if they were on board!

  10. paulm says:

    @5 350Now, Hear Hear! Was a great speech.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think that 350 is a great name for an organization, but maybe the name should be shifted to “18 days” – the time it took youth in Egypt to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. That is the mindset we need to have. They faced tanks, secret police, torture and death, we (as a society), well, we are just too busy to care for the future of our children.

  12. paulm says:

    @11 Yes. This problem is that serious.
    And we are running low on time, but there is no action, no urgency, no panic.

    A world drugged up and high on fossils fuel.

  13. Sasparilla says:

    Part of me wants to smile seeing this (good to see the president spending time with these folks) and part of me wants to cry (as Mike Roddy points out President Obama has been a sellout on climate change since going into office, I can’t say complete sellout since he has said he’d defend the EPA and we’ll have to take him at his word) his campaign is now in full swing and its time to shore up that base that he threw over the side at the end of the last campaign.

  14. Skeptic says:

    Throw, baby, throw …..

  15. 350 Now says:

    McKibben’s “What if your President’s Just Not That Into You? article:

  16. Peter M says:

    Most of the young people I meet at school, in the classroom are very aware of climate change. I met a 15 year old one day, who was incredibly informed- more then most adults.

    The future is not in bad hands, the problem is by the time they can make the changes we really need, we will be well into the red change- but there is hope.

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Go easy there Paulm #9. In my 2009 survey, admittedly Aussie, it was older women who were most concerned and taking most action, in their homes, families and action groups. Just because they are not yet on the streets doesn’t mean they are not with you, ME

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is good to see young people mobilising-after all they must live in the wretched future and bring new generations into being. But I have two caveats. First they ought not trust Obama or any other currently existing politician or political party. All are servants of the money power and, hence, enemies of the human future. The young must create new parties to enter politics, and they will do so without the money support of the plutocrats. Naturally many will refuse to recognise this fact, and join the mainstream parties, for naive or opportunistic reasons, but they will be lost to the cause if they do so. The mainstream parties are irredeemable, full blinking stop,
    My second quibble is that while these youngsters are, no doubt, intelligent, informed and determined, youth are not uniformly so. There are many, many, junior Tea Party Mad Hatters as dumb and ignorant as their Mammies and Pappies, and there is a considerable cohort of ideologically zealous Rightwing young people, who are often even more extreme, particularly in the puerile egotism of ‘libertarianism’, than their elders. I’m sure that the Kochtopus has its own youth program and a steady stream of greedy, thrusting, ‘Koch Youth’ lining up to get on the gravy train.

  19. question says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain says: “First they ought not trust Obama or any other currently existing politician or political party. All are servants of the money power and, hence, enemies of the human future.” …

    Don’t you think that’s a bit overboard? You can’t think of any politcian who is not an “enemy of the human future”? If you seriously think this, if this were really true, then all hope would be lost.

    Politicians do things for many reasons, many are fighting hard for the right thing. Many of course are not, but to paint with such a broad brush is misguided and defeatist. It is precisely what the right wing wants… The more we marginalize ourselves and paint our cause as something that can only be achieved by complete overthrow of the current “status quo”, the better they like it. It is naive in the extreme to believe that the public in a first world country will ever go for a radical revolution… they have (still) far too much to lose. Slow evolution is much less scary. And that is what the ring wing is so good at. Slowly moving the goal posts back farther and farther, redefining “normal” and “center”.

    Yes, climate change is pressing urgently, but trying for the “easy out” of revolutionary change is doomed to fail… and we can’t afford to fail. Engaging hundreds, thousands, even millions, through the current system is harder, but ultimately is the only way to succeed.

    If progressives decide “we need to abandon the political establishment and demonize *all* those who are not ‘pure’ enough”, we will surely lose. Instead, we need to fight back with a long term strategy. The right wing ascendency is the result of a long term process. I won’t dignify it with the term “plan”, since I don’t believe it was decided on in by a coherent “cabal”, but it is a fairly uniform vision for a process starting with think tanks, and building up through popular media. They have successfully highjacked the Republican party. If they had abandoned the GOP and tried to start their own party they would be completely without power. Progressive should heed this lesson.

  20. Sunshine says:

    Bill McKibben’s Power Shift 2011 talk is now online at:

    Click it, hear it, and pass on the link. It’s nice to see his rock star status with so many of these youth.

    More at

  21. Tom says:

    PHOTO-OP! That’s all it was. Do you see anything NEW (environmentally protective and or progressive) as a result of said meeting? No. Same ol’ same ol’ – talk ’em into complacency and continue with “bidniz” as usual.