As the battle to pass the stimulus bill demonstrates, real change will not come easily. And it won't come at all without popular pressure pushing the White House and Congress on numerous fronts.
There are currently countless efforts among progressive groups to harness the energy of young people engaged by politics during the last election. At StudentNation, Kristina Rizga has been spearheading a new series of activist profiles looking at different issues young activists are taking on. Few issues have engaged young people more than saving the planet and few green organizations have been more successful at engaging young people than the Energy Action Coalition, the group behind the PowerShift conferences.
In two weeks Power Shift '09 will bring more than 10,000 youth leaders to Washington DC to get inspired, trained, networked and to lobby their members of Congress.
Go here if you want to register for the conference. There'll be a raft of panels, workshops and seminars and speakers like Van Jones, Rocky Anderson, James Hansen, Majora Carter and Jerome Ringo, among many others.
One of the best things about the Energy Action Coalition is the depth and breadth of its outreach, making it one of America's most diverse environmental coalitions and one as sensitive to issues of class as it is to more traditional ecological concerns.
Some of the young activists in attendance will include:
*A busload of Indigenous youth from the US and Canada who have been active in sustainability initiatives on tribal campuses and in their communities.
*A group of 50 Washington-area public and private high school students who have been lobbying to get the Board of Education to commit to making Montgomery Co Public Schools energy self-sufficient by 2050.
*A group of sixty students from Kentucky who are lobbying for a statewide moratorium on mountaintop coal removal, passing sustainability measures on their campuses, and creating innovative clean energy corps program models.
*Groups of students from fifteen of the country's leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities are coming to Power Shift '09.
*A sorority in Texas which rescheduled its initiation because it conflicted with Power Shift 09.
If you're not going to attend PowerShift but want to help, the EAC has some suggestions.
1. Recruit: Are there young people in your life (or part of your organization) that could be inspired by this event? Please spread the word far and wide.
2. Leverage: On March 2nd, roughly 7,000 youth leaders are expected to go up to Capitol Hill to lobby their members of Congress, in what would be by far the largest lobby day on climate/energy issues in US history. Is there anything you or your organization can do to back them up throughout that week? Can you generate calls or letters to Congress? Write a letter to the editor or a blog post?
3. Sponsor: The EAC is trying to raise $150,000 in scholarship funding to make sure Power Shift is as diverse as possible and that talented young people can attend regardless of financial constraints. Pitch in if you can.