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Midwest

Midwest (7)

There's something unique about the Midwest. Of course, every geographic region of the country has its own style, its own vibe, its own culture to be proud of.  But as a born and raised Midwesterner, it's always seemed to me that the Midwest is basically begging to become the hub of a new, sustainable future for America.  State environmental coalitions across the Midwest have been growing, and the Midwest Powershift of October 2011 proved that Midwesterners are committed to working together on environmental issues.

Out of a vast array of already existing networks and organizations arises the Midwest Youth Coalition, which, "by pooling time and resources, …will reduce redundancy, provide models and outlines for new campaigns just coming online and offer a regional set of cohesive communication messages" (MYC Mission Statement).  Most importantly, the Midwest Youth Coalition seeks to solidify and grow existing networks and relationships both in and among the Midwestern states.

Currently, the Midwest Youth Coalition has one Steering Committee member from each of 6 different Midwest States (listed below), as well as a Communications Lead, Marie Donahue.  Our Steering Committee Chair is an as yet undecided position, but we have the guidance of the amazing Abby Fenton of the Will Steger Foundation to help us through the process of Coalition building. Over the next year, we hope to solidify specific goals and issues for the Midwest Youth Coalition to address, as well as to grow our networks and grow as a coalition in general.

We are:

  • Illinois: Rafael Hurtado
  • Michigan:  Marion Berger
  • Ohio: Casey Slive
  • Minnesota: Carlos Dabu
  • Wisconsin: Amanda Lazzari
  • Iowa: Holly Jones

Together, we will work to increase cooperation and work among the states of the Midwest, and to address major issues affecting the Midwest as a whole.  Although we're in the very earliest of our development stages, I can already tell the Midwest Youth Coalition will do great things. We are passionate, we are innovative, and we are ready for action.  Our states are the homes of manufacturing giants such as Detroit, craving the production of solar panels and wind turbines.  Our vast farmlands and Great Lakes provide ample opportunity for wind power.  We see the potential, and we know that that potential can only be reached through our collaboration.  We're ready to show the nation just what the Midwest is capable of.

And while we each have our own goals, our own dreams of what we want the Midwest Youth Coalition to do for the Midwest, we're united in the fact that we're ready to work together to create widespread change.  Personally, I'm ready for the Midwest to become America's first large-scale green economy.  As an avid longtime participant in the Green Economy Leadership Training and native of the city of Detroit, I'm passionate about transforming the Midwest economy to a more sustainable economy in all senses of the word.  And it is only through the innovation of our youth and the passion of our united activists that we will make this shift.

Working together, the possibilities of what we can accomplish are limitless.  So get to know us! You'll be hearing much more from us over the course of the next year.

Full versions of our current vision and mission statements are listed below:

Mission

The Midwest Youth Coalition is a grassroots network that seeks to secure a just and ecologically responsible future.  By coordinating collaborative campaigns across Midwest campuses and communities, and by providing a space to share skills, resources and ideas, we will bring a solutions-oriented approach to our most difficult environmental challenges.

Vision

The Midwest Youth Coalition envisions a shared space for Midwest youth to exchange skills, ideas and models, to encourage and facilitate discussion and to offer guidance and support to statewide coalitions trying to get off the ground. This space will likely take the form of a website that can host various resources, a monthly or bi-monthly conference call to keep state leaders up to date on the going-ons in the rest of the region, and a steering committee that can support regional events and campaigns.

The Coalition will seek to support statewide coalitions in each of the Midwest states and to assist those coalitions in the work they do. Midwest is defined at this point as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. By pooling time and resources, the Coalition will reduce redundancy, provide models and outlines for new campaigns just coming online and offer a regional set of cohesive communication messages. Finally, the Coalition will help build valuable relationships and community throughout the Midwest.

Join us!

Midwest Power Shift was a huge success. Hundreds of youth gathered in Ohio to train and take action on a clean and just energy future. You can find this blog, photos and video from the weekend, and youth reflections from across the Midwest, at We Are Power Shift. The Will Steger Foundation was a proud member if the Midwest Power Shift Steering Committee and is actively engaged in building a unified Midwest youth coalition.

MWPS KystoneRally11This weekend, over 400 youth leaders from across the Midwest converged in Cleveland, Ohio to do some political organizing. Ohio is a critical swing state in the 2012 election, but these activists weren't coming to knock on doors for Mitt Romney or phone-bank for Barack Obama.

Instead, their mission was two-fold: continue to work together building the clean energy economy in the heartland, and two, stand up against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a major setback and threat for the Midwest.

Midwest Power Shift was one of the largest youth political conventions of the year and a clear sign that both parties should think twice about relegating climate and energy to the sidelines during the 2012 election. It's easy for the media or political pundits to quickly pass over such conferences, after all, what could a bunch of wild-eyed youngsters accomplish on their own?

Well, Occupy Wall Street has showed that we can accomplish quite a lot, actually. And if the energy at Midwest Power Shift was any indication of where we're headed, the youth climate movement is going to be making a serious impact in the months to come. More Power Shift summits are planned across the country, organizers are setting up shop in other critical swing states, and students up and down the East Coast are preparing to flood into Washington this November 6 to surround the White House in another major protest against Keystone XL.

MWPS KystoneRally211More and more, students are getting out of the classrooms and into the streets. On Sunday, after organizing and planning for on-going action, over 400 people streamed out of Cleveland State University to march through downtown. Our first stop: the Cuyahoga County Democrats Office, and an office for the Obama campaign. We showed up not to lambast them, but to pass our message to the campaign, and to show them that we're a force to be reckoned with. Outside the office, over a dozen 2008 Obama Campaign volunteers stepped out and talked about how they had worked so hard to elect President Obama, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and being the organizing force behind Students for Barack Obama. And they showed that they're committed to continuing to use the grassroots organizing tactics that they learned on the Obama campaign, however this time to build the movement against the pipeline: clipboards were passed to sign-up for future trainings, and hundreds of people broke out their cell phones to call hundreds more people and recruit them to attend future rallies, like our November 6 encirclement of the White House. They showed that this isn't just a movement of complaining, this is a movement of doing that it's continuing to build steam and wont stop, no matter what.

One of the most inspirational parts of the weekend was working hand-in-hand with #OccupyCleveland. On Friday night we caught wind that Occupy Cleveland was facing eviction, so over 200 of us marched down to them to stand with them and show our support. As we entered the park, the crowd went wild, cheers broke out: "The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated!" We're coming together to stand up against big corporations and political cronyism, and it feels powerful. It felt powerful to have them marching by our side as we marched the streets of Cleveland, and visited the OFA office, to demand President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline riddled with corporate malfeasance and political corruption.

Something is stirring in America. Not just down at the encampments on Wall Street, but along the Keystone XL pipeline route in Nebraska, on campuses across the country, and right here in the Midwest. In 2008, young people rallied behind a candidate. In 2011, youth are rallying behind a cause. And that is what may just deliver the hope and change this country really needs

Whit JonesWhit Jones
Campaign Director
Energy Action Coalition

CHICAGO, IL—On Thursday, July 28th, Aldermen Joe Moore and Danny Solis re-introduced the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance to a newly elected City Council, with an impressive total of 35 co-sponsors (in Chicago, a city ordinance requires 26 votes and the signature of the mayor to become law) and with continued support from the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, a grassroots movement of more than 60 local community, health, and environmental organizations.

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Summer of Solutions Detroit launches their Green Energy Economy Training in the inner-city Highland Park neighborhood
As summer temps soar across the Midwest so does youth climate activism as momentum grows at an exponential pace across the region. Power Shift 2011 was revealing as Midwest youth participation made up almost a quarter of the 10,000 youth in attendance. But if Power Shift is the indicator, youth themselves are the cause. The Midwest is home to many of the most influential young visionaries in the youth climate movement today and several of the youth initiatives and programs that have been building over the past several years have started to catch fire.

At a glance, the Midwest hosts two of the most exciting programs in country. The ripple effect from Summer of Solutions, launched in 2008 by Grand Aspirations (a youth start-up non-profit based in St Paul, MN), can be felt across the U.S. What began as a local initiative has grown to include 16 youth-run summer programs across the country, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Iowa City. Not only are youth implementing clean energy solutions on the ground, they are also building new partnerships with local businesses, schools, community members, and local policy makers, and creating the green jobs vital to the transition to a clean energy economy. This focus on 'sustainable cities' parallels a growing focus area for Midwest environmental non-profits and foundations and lends itself to exciting cross-generational collaboration. The Will Steger Foundation is proud to play a role in fostering these connections through our Emerging Leaders Program.

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Summer of Solutions Twin Cities youth flex their muscle at the Peace Haven community garden
The Ohio Student Environmental Coalition (OSEC) is another hot spot on the youth climate map. Currently funded through the Energy Action Coalition and fiscally sponsored by Global Exchange, OSEC has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year. Funding for a full-time Coordinator position has made a huge difference, and enable to statewide network to expand include more schools and a wider range of projects. Perhaps most exciting is the OSEC Don't Frack with Ohio campaign. Student organizers are working closely with community groups and non-profit partners to host strategic meetings across the state. The meetings have had strong turn out and drawn interest from local/state policy makers. The Coalition is also running several other campaigns including the Lake Erie Off-Shore Wind Project, Ohio Beyond Coal, and Smart Transportation for a Smart Generation. OSEC is currently one of the largest and most effective statewide youth network in the country, and is a valuable example of what a well-structured and effective youth network can look like. Janina Klimas, OSEC Coordinator, is also taking the lead in planning Midwest Power Shift, to be held Oct. 7-9 at Cleveland State University.

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Summer of Solutions Iowa City youth at ZJ Farm, run in the model of community-sponsored-agriculture
While these two programs are making an impact on the wider youth movement, youth orgs and programs across the Midwest are hard at work this summer, sweating it out on a variety of issues. WISPIRG is holding Wisconsin Gov. Walker's feet to fire drawing attention to his spending on new roads vs. investment in existing infrastructure and clean transportation options, along with a new community weatherization program. MPIRG is working actively at the municipal level on solid waste legislation as part of their Greener Minneapolis program. National Wildlife Federation, based in Michigan, is continuing it's outreach to community colleges on green jobs training through their Greenforce Initiative. The Sierra Student Coalition welcomed a new Director this spring and just wrapped up their annual Midwest youth training (SPROG) in Indiana this July.



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That's the basic conclusion of a big new report by the United Nations on the impacts of climate change on youth and how young people around the world are reacting.

Why so much attention on youth? For starters, we're celebrating the International Year of Youth from August 2010-2011, in case you've missed the party.

Driving through the night across Ohio and up through Michigan from Cleveland to Detroit on Friday with four of the most amazing women I have ever met, I was stunned and awed by the industry and power production surrounding us on all sides. Bright lights, flares and billowing smoke flooded the otherwise peaceful, moonlit night as we rocked out to Lady Gaga and Blondie barreling down interstates 90 and 75. Now, back home in Oberlin, Ohio, as I reflect on the weekend, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of magic and terror I experienced over the past few days. This country and region we call home are really quite extraordinary. We are consumed by so much beauty, grime and inertia on a daily basis. These are the things that lead me to join the environmental movement, and as a result I often find myself contemplating the same rehearsed question: how can I harness all of this power, innovation and social context for healthy and just change? Perhaps more importantly, how can I work toward this change and past this broken system while remembering to take care of myself and stay positive?

"The Solutions Revolution: Here's a team that's spreading the most important number in the world-350-one mile at a time across the middle of the nation. The ride is waking up a country that needs waking up, because our Congress holds one of the keys to solving the climate conundrum!"