Powershift09 Conference Brings Thousands of Activists to DC Demanding Clean Energy


Powershift 09 Rally on Lawn of the Capitol photo from Fritz Meyr's flickr page
Powershift 2009 was an energetic and informative conference that culminated with a march of 3,000 plus young (and young at heart) people demanding clean energy and green jobs. The inclement weather only made the march more inspiring. Other Powershift 2009 highlights included: Protestors visiting their representatives in Congress and the Senate; Four young leaders giving testimony to the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming; and an anti-coal protest at the Capitol Power Plant. When I arrived, I scanned the cavernous conference center for the registration area and asked a woman wearing a green t-shirt and badge that said LEADER for directions. As I walked to the table she had pointed to, the brilliance of the conference organizers dawned on me—every participant was wearing a tag that proclaimed them a LEADER!

Powershift09 conference badge photo by Bonnie H.

The event felt like the first day of school with people rushing off in small groups to various standing room only workshops and panels. Some of the content is available online on YouTube, including videos of speeches from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Congressman Ed Markey. Beyond those speakers, many illustrious green stars that we've highlighted on TreeHugger.com, such as Gus Speth, Bill McKibben, and Tim De Christopher, were hanging out, mingling and chatting with the conference attendees.


Gus Speth and young leader at Powershift09 conference photo by Bonnie H.

One of the other most impressive features of the conference was the hyper articulateness of some of the youngest "leaders", with a presentation by a 12-year old from Seeds of Green, while a program called DoRIght Leadership Corps had two high school sophomores presenting. These weren't novelty acts; these teens and tweens eloquently delivered.

Another event highlight was the impromptu Saturday night march. My friend Antuan Cannon of Envirolution related the story to me. After the Roots concert, a spontaneous rally broke out in the convention center corridors. After being pushed by security on to the streets, the police arrived to clearing people out of the road to let cars pass. Rather than disassemble, fifty plus students began marching toward the White House.

This small group leading the way forward merged with other small groups that had the same idea. It reminded Antuan of the scene in Braveheart, when all the reinforcements appear over the horizon. As the merged group made its way to the White House, cars honked to show support, when these activists sang the National Anthem with pride. You can have high tech presentations, Van Jones speaking, the Roots rocking, but it doesn't get anymore democratic and inspiring than that.


Saturday night Spontaneous March to White House photo via UOPowershift09's flickr page
More on green jobs and anti-coal protests
Coen Brothers Coal Video
Anti-Coal Protest Gives Congress a Kick
March and Civil Disobedience at the Capitol Coal-Fired Power Plant

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