Power Shift 2011, the biennial national summit of the youth climate movement, begins this Friday in Washington, DC. The challenges facing the Millennial generation posed by the dirty energy economy is seemingly insurmountable: the destruction of our planet’s atmosphere, the poisoning of our political discourse, the dissolution of the American Dream. Armed with the vision of a cleaner, greener, future, the participants in Power Shift are choosing not just to fight back, but to organize and realize their collective potential.
This year, the conference is focused on movement building, with the intent of being the largest organizer training session in history. As many as 10,000 youth activists will be trained in community organizing, facilitation, and campaign leadership, led by professionals from the New Organizing Institute, founded by Judith Freeman and Zach Exley, using the knowledge built by the likes of Marshall Ganz. The conference is departing from the earlier Power Shifts in 2007 and 2009 with the recognition that the youth climate movement can’t simply be part of the “chorus of advocates simply calling for change,” but must emerge “into a position of leadership“:
As the largest generation in American history, we are ready to build the green economy city by city, to transform higher education, to join forces on the ground with our religious and local community leaders so together we can build the future we know is essential for our long term success as a nation.
Over the course of Power Shift, participants will work through a series of sessions to learn powerful skills to share their own stories, create powerful strategies to motivate others in collective action, and lay the groundwork to launch grassroots campaigns across the country. The organizing trainings will condense what is usually a week-long course in progressive leadership methods into two four-hour sessions, Saturday and Sunday morning.
Sunday afternoon will be spent on action-oriented training on lobbying and nonviolent direct action, preparing participants for protests and lobbying Congress on Monday, April 18.
This ambitious schedule means that participants will have to choose just three from among over 100 panels taking place Saturday afternoon, ranging from panels on the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to workshops on sustainable agriculture and weatherization training. Or participants can instead join the Clean Economy Canvass, hitting the streets of Washington DC with Weatherize DC to teach homeowners about how they can participate in the green economy.
Keynotes will be delivered by climate leaders like Al Gore, Van Jones, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Bill McKibben. However, this year the real leadership will come from the Millennial generation, who are preparing for the awesome challenge of inheriting this earth.