Reflections on Power Shift 2013

I arrived at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport during the wee hours of the morning, prepared to embark on a short, yet action-packed journey to the northeast. The occasion – the reason I was willing to leave my bed at 3 AM – was Power Shift 2013.For those unfamiliar, Power Shift is a biannual convergence organized by Energy Action Coalition (EAC). Over the course of three days, thousands of youth activists come together to work for a just future that includes a transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy.From October 19th through Monday the 21st, six thousand activists gathered together in Pittsburgh, PA for panels, keynote speeches, workshops, and actions on a variety of topics focused around climate, environmental, economic, and social justice. This year’s gathering sought to highlight the integral link between the environmental movement and other economic and social justice issues.It was inspiring to see Gulf States represented in such a big way at the convergence. With workshops entitled, Voices from the Gulf Coast; Living with Tar Sands, Katrina and Climate Disasters and screenings of films such as Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, it was beautiful to know that our voices were being amplified and heard on a national level. I had the opportunity to engage with a broader coalition of Gulf Coast activists by partaking in a state-specific breakout session for Louisiana, along with folks from Mississippi and Alabama (Florida and Texas were in separate sessions).On the final day of Power Shift 2013, I joined more than 2,500 people to march together through downtown Pittsburgh. We were met by pro-coal activists from Consol Energy and Boilermakers Union Local, who brought a tow boat and coal barge to serve as a backdrop on the Allegheny River. The presence of counter-protestors highlights the great progress we have already made and will continue to make as a movement. For our protest to be met with protestors, we must be doing something right.Many of the campaigns that we work on at Gulf Restoration Network involve issues that affect people from all walks of life, from all across the country. Every dirty project has an extensive life cycle – it doesn’t begin and end in one place. Our work to stop construction of the RAM Coal Terminal in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana is one leg of the journey in a greater fight against dirty coal – in Pennsylvania, the Center for Coalfield Justice is fighting to put an end to RAM’s destructive mining operations. Across the nation, we must not forget that we are connected in our fight for a just future.What emerged from my weekend in Pittsburgh was an understanding of the dire need for systemic change. Cherri Foytlin of Bridge the Gulf once said that environmental justice is people justice. As we fight for a just future, let’s not forget that this fight must be inclusive, with voices equally heard and represented, and let’s also remind ourselves that justice is not, “just us.” Anna Dvorak is GRN’s Outreach Team Manager.

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