A Power Shift crowd in 2007. Photo credit: Power Shift/Sierra Club
Our nation's capitol will soon receive a powerful infusion of young energy. From April 15-18, more than 10,000 young leaders will converge on Washington, DC, at Power Shift 2011.
At Power Shift 2011, we'll stand together to reclaim our democracy from big corporations and push our nation to move beyond dirty energy sources that are harming the health of people and the planet.
These young people are a force to be reckoned with. They are many, they are vocal, and they are effective.
Juan Martinez knows it—and that's why he will again attend Power Shift this year. "It's really a conference that reflects the millennial generation and our core values," the 26-year-old explained. "It's really a source of inspiration and renewal to me—just to learn about what's going on in other communities about the fight against coal and for renewable energy."
The coordinator of the Natural Leaders Network, Martinez forged many positive relationships at previous Power Shift meetings.
This year Martinez wants to learn more about how to stand up for public health while Big Polluters are attacking Environmental Protection Agency safeguards.
"People are trying to gut the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and I want to help stop that," he said.
Martinez is the lead youth volunteer for the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program (which is aimed at giving every child in America an outdoor experience). He's also worked with the Sierra Student Coalition in the past - the Sierra Club's amazing youth-led network of high school and college-aged young people from across the country working to protect the environment.
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is heavily involved with Power Shift, recruiting more than 500 young people to attend and helping run workshops and leadership trainings. speakers are. Many of SSC's youth leaders will even be showcased on the panels and workshops about Campuses Beyond Coal and Hydraulic Fracturing.
Martinez (pictured below) also hopes to use Power Shift as an opportunity to talk green jobs.
"I want to show this connection to nature and how it leads to jobs and careers. I hope to make more apparent that this is one of the ways toward civil action - it sometimes goes through nature."
The Sierra Club's youth programs (from BBTO, to the SSC, to Inner City Outings, to Military Families Outdoors, and more) offer young people this important chance to find their own connection to nature.
Martinez's connection to nature came at a critical point in his life. Living in south central Los Angeles, he'd frequently been getting into trouble in school. Then one day in detention, he had the opportunity to go hang out with the school's Eco Club.
"I stuck with it because I wanted to learn how to grow my own jalapenos," he laughed. "But then I got the chance to go to Grand Teton National Park. For a kid from south central to see mountains, trees and a clear sky, and not hear helicopters - that was something that changed my life for the better."
And now he's giving similar opportunities to other kids through the Natural Leaders Program.
Of course, Martinez's is just one story from one young person planning to attend Power Shift. There are so many more like him, young people striving to create a better world. Young people can and are already making a difference.
We see it across the U.S. as college environmental groups help convince their campuses to switch from coal to clean energy. We see it in low income neighborhoods where kids band together for river and stream clean-ups. There are plenty of stories.
The Sierra Club proudly supports Power Shift and encourages youth to attend. There's still a little time left to register (and there's a special discount offer that ends Friday night!).
"The common cause at Power Shift is to turn our country in a different direction," said Martinez. "The administration has to respond to the generation that put it into office. This is our way of saying, 'These are our values and this is what we want to see happen in America. This is how we're going to do it. We're going to make it happen.'"
Read more about Power Shift:
Thousands of College Students Converge on Washington, D.C. to Lobby Against Climate Change
Take Action: Demand Congress Enact Strong Renewable Energy, Climate Change Legislation
Powershift: Save the Polar Bears, Save the Humans