by Nancy Cole
Published on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 by The Mustang Daily (Cal Poly)
Radicalism, student power and nonviolent direct action spark images
of the 1960s protests against the war, the free speech movement and
the civil rights movement. Student activists lobbied the U.S.
Congress, marched the White House, staged boycotts, strikes and
sit-ins and participated in civil disobedience. This was a time
marked by such overt societal decay that people, especially young
people, became sick of the powers that led the country. Young people
raised their voices and refused to be an accomplice to what they
believed to be wrong.
The 1960s movement was limited by its ability to create widespread
engagement and change. Rallying and protesting prevented people's
ability to interact and get involved. Now we have entered a time in
history fraught with such moral, environmental and economic
uncertainty that people from all disciplines are coming together to
find solutions to eminent challenges: ending the use of coal power,
creating green jobs and building a clean energy infrastructure.
It seems like today's movement is shaped by constantly evolving
sustainability conferences, energy town hall meetings, interactive
environmental justice workshops, ecological literacy outings and
local food parties. These gatherings emphasized the cultural,
entertainment and lifestyle aspects that create a positive energy and vision.
This weekend, thousands of students from across the United States
gathered in Washington, D.C., to attend Power Shift 2009, a historic
youth summit and lobby day aimed at pressuring congress to take
aggressive action on the climate crisis. The summit, organized by the
Energy Action Coalition, featured workshops, a green job fair, music
and fun. "The workshops, lectures and panels covered just about the
whole spectrum...from environmental justice, to the nation's energy
policy, to transportation," explains Donald Nielsen a Cal Poly
student and Power Shift attendee. Events frame the way we perceive
the world, connect us to quality people and create a community around
Some of the speakers included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the
Environmental Protection Agency's Carol Browner and the Ella Baker
Center for Human Rights Director Van Jones. "The result of Power
Shift isn't in the conference itself, but rather the energy that will
translate back into the college communities across the country," said
Tyler Hartrich, ASI Environmental Affairs Officer and attendee of the
conference. Events become a cultural experience with great leaders,
and a site for renewed strength.
The Power Shift events were followed by yesterday's rally to the
Capitol's very own coal-fired power plant. Members of Congress
promise to close the Capitol Power Plant from coal power. "We
strongly encourage you to move forward aggressively with us on a
comprehensive set of policies for the entire Capitol complex and the
entire Legislative Branch to quickly reduce emissions and petroleum
consumption through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean
alternative fuels," says Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid. It takes demonstrations to show Congress that the
citizens want change.
As the youth of America, we must network and connect with all sorts
of people in order to do the work that most needs doing. It is our
generation that must uphold a moral compass and create a vision for
our shared future. Sometimes, we must stand up and speak out against
the engine that drives our challenges.
We know sustainability rejects the notion of over-consumption and
promotes equity and resource conservation. So what's the next step?
It is time to identify a new vision for our community, our state and
our nation. I encourage you to find an issue that interests you and
make Cal Poly and your community a test-bed for your ideas. If we all
take a little piece and work together to share our efforts, we can
reshape our future.
Nancy Cole is a city and regional planning senior, the former
vice-president of the Empower Poly Coalition and is graduating this
quarter. This is her last column for the Mustang Daily.