Clean Air youth reflects on his experiences at Power Shift 2011
I recently attended Energy Action Coalition's Power Shift 2011, a key event in the national environmental justice youth movement. The conference started in 2007, made waves in 2009, and held its most recent gathering in April of this year.
This was the first time that the Bus Riders Union and the Clean Air, Clean Lungs, Clean Buses campaign had ever been invited to Power Shift. It was a great chance for us to make connections and continue building with other youth involved in the EJ movement, some of whom we had met in Cancun in 2010 for COP16.
|The Bus Riders Union and the Clean Air, Clean Lungs, Clean Buses Campaign send their first-ever delegation to Energy Action Coalition's Power Shift Conference, April 15-18 in Washington, D.C.
||Ronald Collins is on a panel with delegates Kari Fulton, National Campus Campaign Coordinator at Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, Liliana Molina, EJ Director at Energy Action Coalition, and Jen Ganata, youth organizer at Communities for a Better Environment.|
For me as a youth of color, Power Shift 2011 was an inspiring and effective space for two major reasons: it gave me a chance to really start to build with youth from other grassroots organizations, and it allowed me to gain insight into the Environmental Justice movement as a whole.
One of the most transformative experiences for me was hearing Michelle Roberts speak about the state of the environmental justice movement. It was particularly eye-opening to hear an elder woman of color give such an amazing historical context for the movement. Listening to her really gave me a better perspective of how frontline communities are not just the most affected communities when it comes to environmental change, but also due to that we have been and continue to be the most aggressive and progressive fighters in the movement.
As inspiring as that experience was, I was just as happy to have a chance to get some analysis from other youth as well. I found that particularly with the other youth from Power Shift's Frontline Track, I was able to begin fostering conversations that I am optimistic will lead to future collaborations.
I particularly remember helping to facilitate a youth caucus over lunch on Saturday that was just an open forum for discussion. In that space we were able to begin to brainstorm ways in which we could all begin to help support one another in our local fights after the actual Power Shift conference. Ideas such as communal social media pages like a Facebook group, building a listserv, and organizing a space where frontline communities were at the forefront of the discussion were only a few of the many suggestions that were discussed as ways of build closer alliances. Learning to build with one another was really what I felt was at the center of this conference.
As frontline youth we came with the understanding that the climate problem has already begun to affect our communities and that we need to figure out what more could be done. Coming from grassroots organizations most of the youth had a fantastic grasp of different organizing tactics, so the majority of conversations between us were about how we could begin move forward with one another
Connecting the dots
The essential lesson was that the things affecting our communities do not happen within a bubble, but that they happen in relation to one another and they affect one another. We are fighting not just to stop an incinerator from being put in our community or just for cleaner public transit in our city; we are fighting for the right of our collective communities of color to have a healthy environment.
About Ronald Collins
- Jan 29 2013
- Jan 22 2013