Power Shift 2007: Sustainability and Social Change
By way of introduction my name is Matt Harmin. I recently began an internship with AASHE and this is my inaugural blog posting! I have never felt more excited and energized by being involved in the sustainability movement than I do now, during Power Shift 2007. From campuses all across the country over 5,500 of the most inspiring and active sustainability advocates brought their experiences to share with those endeavoring towards the same ends.
Washington D.C. is the perfect place for energy activists to realize meaningful change. I have come to understand how necessary it is for our collective desire for change and resolve in this matter to coalesce into political will. My day started with a panel discussion, moderated by our friend Sam Hummel, over the role of campuses and Universities in the broader climate change movement. Campuses have been the proving grounds for sustainability policies, and the benefits in the campus microcosm can be projected readily onto society on a broader scale. Universities serve as exemplars, taking action and subsequently challenging business, government, and society to raise their level of commitment to sustainability. In initiating this process, campuses all across the country are not only greening their operations, but greening the future workforce and political leadership as well. Students present at Powershift07 are lobbying and agitating for sustainability policies at their schools, while at the same time involving themselves in the implementation of these policies in University operations. Powershift07 is about taking these lobbying and implementation efforts off of campus, and enacting them in the legislatures of our states and nation. The Safe Climate Act and the Higher Education Sustainability Act are going to receive a huge boost on Monday, when all these Powershifters go to Capitol Hill for a day of direct action and lobbying.
Ralph Nader spoke later in the morning of the efficacy of an engaged citizenry, and he used the term “civic self-respect” to describe what it is that a citizen requires to fulfill their role in the democratic process. His talk really made me think about the possibility of sustainability as an outcome of healthy democratic processes. If the democracy responded more quickly to the will of the people there might already be a significant commitment to sustainability in our country. Fortunately, the whole purpose of Powershift is to teach youth organizers and activists how to make the democratic process function as optimally as possible, using this improved functionality to advance causes that address any and all of the three pillars of sustainability. During Ralph Nader's speech there were panel discussions on climate legislation and student success stories. These discussions were almost totally depopulated because most of the people crowded into the seats in front of one of America's greatest consumer, worker, and environmental advocates. He did not disappoint, delivering a talk that melded the social, economic, and environmental fronts of the sustainability process into an integrated ideal, goal, and process. It became clear that the necessary changes will not take place until our government shifts from a capital centric, corporate occupied space into a space where the democratic will can manifest. This can only happen when freedom is achieved; Marcus Cicero defines freedom as participation in power.
Everyone here is ready to participate, and ready to shift power. Shift power generation methods, shift inhibitive societal power structures, and shift the way people view their innate human power. Shift powerlessness right on out of the frame of reference. Powerlessness to effect change is illusory, but it is heavily bought into especially when the scope of the problems and solutions are so large relative to a single person. This leads to people subordinating themselves to the impositions of societal power structures, rather than bolstering a collective voice and pursuing the justice that we, in our sovereignty, desire.
I feel great right now. This experience has me empowered, more focused, and replete with new friends, allies, information, resources, and inspiration. I am amazed at the scope and breadth of this event, and the potential for this movement to radically alter the political climate at a rate much faster than the pace of climate change. I give a hearty thank you to everyone who came to Powershift for all the great work being done on campuses across the country to put sustainability at the core of University operations and culture.
Sustainability and Solidarity,
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