Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Power Vote Training 2008

In August, I had the opportunity to travel up to Saint Paul, Minnesota for the 2008 PowerVote/MEGA training camp.

What is PowerVote you ask? It's a non-partisan campaign that engages the youth of America to demand real solutions to the dire global climate crisis from their elected officials. We demand that the U.S. put an end to using coal for fuel, which is a huge problem for many regions in our country. Millions of people are being affected because of this 'old' technology, but we are making it clear that the American workforce, including the youth, are ready for clean energy and 'Green-Collar' jobs.

For 5 days, I had the pleasure to meet a lot of people who are just as passionate about environmental issues as I am (maybe even more?). Young people from literally across the US and Canada came together and learned how to get this historic environmental awareness movement out to the public. Not only that, we all learned about the different issues that each of the regions of the U.S. deal with daily.

One of the examples I treasure most comes from the Indigenous Environmental Network and the leaders that were present. After hearing about the several proposals for coal-fire plants and oil pipelines that are being imposed onto their reservations, and also learning about the effects of those coal plants on the Native American communities, I was taken aback. I felt almost privileged to be in a school that is pushing for drastic sustainable practices and that has support from our administration.

Others at the conference had issues with mountain top removal, which is a process where the tops of mountains are removed (demolished is a better word...) and coal is extracted. Above all, we were all there to empower the youth, and ourselves, to demand environmental justice from the people who hope to be elected this coming November. Those officials have power to introduce legislation, both at the local up to the federal level, that can improve the quality of life that we all deserve.

Another valuable lesson learned was the difference between 'environmental justice' and 'justice-minded environmentalism'. It may seem as though these two concepts interconnect at some point, which they do. But they are different in and of themselves. Environmental Justice (E.J.) is the concept that fights to protect nature, such as helping save the rain forest or helping to clean up Lake Michigan. E.J. doesn't focus how climate change affects humans. Justice-Minded Environmentalism (J.M.E.) focuses on how humans are being affected by the global crisis, from how accessible people are to organic goods to how lower-income communities are more severely impacted by poor environmental policy. See the difference? So many concepts, so little time it seemed.

At the end of the training, we did an exercise where we got into a circle in the park and passed along a large ball of slim rope. We looped a piece around our wrists, like a bracelet, and in the end, all 180+ of us were connected. We were asked to say a few words about our experience, and when it came time for me to speak, I said something along these lines:

"These past few days have given me so much inspiration and hope that we can move this nation in the right direction. Thank you to each of you for teaching me more than just the training. I will take all the excitement and energy back home and keep you all in my thoughts as I plan my campaign at school. Thank you all and I love you all".

And I meant all of it :)


1 comment:

Dan said...

Nice post, Lubia! It sounds like an awesome organization and a really fun event.

One of my old professors just won something called the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for his ideas to rejuvenate the Appalachian Mountain region destroyed by the mountaintop removal you mentioned. Pretty cool stuff (the ideas, not the mountaintop removal)!