This past weekend, 56 Geneseo students went to Washington, D.C. to attend student-organized demonstration and convention Power Shift '09 and to demand action from government leaders on environmental and climate issues.
"Power Shift was a mobilizing event designed to educate us and give us the tools to create campaigns and put forth a positive activism in regards to the issue of climate change," said junior Adam Kroopnick.
Over 12,000 students were present at Power Shift this year, as opposed to just over 3,000 in 2007, according to the Power Shift Web site. Geneseo's number of attendees also dramatically increased, shooting from nine in 2007 to 56 this past weekend.
Junior Lwam Tecleab recalled the experience of first merging into such a large group. "When I first walked into the convention center, I was absolutely amazed at the presence," she said.
This high number of students led to a profound exchange of ideas, according to senior Nolan Quinn. "As great as it was to hear the speakers brought in for Power Shift," he said, "I learned just as much talking with students from Geneseo and from around the country."
Not only was Power Shift an opportunity for students to gather and demonstrate, but it was also an opportunity to learn. Multiple workshops were offered and many speakers were present to address the students.
"The workshops were very diverse and informative," said Tecleab. "They offered a huge range of workshops in social, political, and of course environmental issues."
Quinn recalled, "There were a variety of different speakers on fields from restoring Louisiana's wetlands to environmental justice to issues of cap and trade programs."
Kroopnick added, "The two that come to mind were Diversity in the Environmental Movement, which laid out exactly what diversity meant based on a set of principles, and How to Build an Effective Leadership Team, which discussed what leadership is in terms of delegation and efficiency and how to engender leadership in others."
Speakers included Van Jones, founding president of Green for All and a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress; Majora Carter, president of the green-collar economic consulting firm, the Majora Carter Group, LLC; and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, according to the Power Shift Web site.
On Monday, designated as lobby day, the students became the speakers as they addressed members of congress with their issues. "In the past, environmental concerns and climate change in particular have been marginalized by most anyone with power," said Quinn, "but hopefully at least some of them will take note and take some action."
Power Shift '09 acted to mobilize energy found on many campuses in the United States. The next goal for Power Shift attendees is to "take that mobilized energy and convert it into a dedication to act," said Kroopnick.
"This was truly a life changing experience," said Tecleab. "I can only hope that we have a bigger group next year. This generation has a great responsibility to end this problem."