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Friday, 11 November 2011 09:47

Youth Take Action for the Climate

Letter from the Executive Director

image_edThe Will Steger Foundation blog has a number of great articles by our youth leaders this month. From Midwest Powershift in Cleveland, Ohio to youth led meetings with legislative staff, to preparing to participate in the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa, a generation is getting to work building their future.

Youth have also been submitting observations to our online classroom for Minnesota’s Changing Climate: "I learned that humans have a huge impact on how fast the climate changes and that everything we do affects the changing climate. I also learned that we can change the world.” "I learned that every living thing has an impact on how the world changes." Check them out in our exciting online classroom!

The Changing Arctic event was a great success last month. Over 80 people joined the Will Steger Foundation and partners for a thought-provoking conversation. The half-day event explored what a changing arctic, mainly an ice-free arctic, means for economics, the environment, diplomacy and security.

We are gearing up for Give to the Max Day this Wednesday November 16th and hope you will join us by supporting our work.

Finally, on December 7 & 8 Will Steger will be talking about his eyewitness experience with climate change and the connection between climate, clean air and human health at two events in Grand Rapids and Princeton, MN. We hope to see you there!


Nicole Rom, Executive Director

Published in eNewsletter

In October, I attended Midwest Power Shift, which lived up to the hype of being an epic and unprecedented gathering. Over 400 Midwest youth climate activists converged in Cleveland, Ohio for trainings and actions to move toward a clean and just energy future. The conference was evidence that our generation in these “fly over states” is serious when it comes to stopping dirty energy, getting corporate money out of our democracy and building a green economy where it matters most--the heartland.

Published in Climate News

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

PowershiftIn less than a week hundreds of youth climate organizers will gather in Cleveland for Midwest Power Shift, a regional conference run by and for youth aimed at engaging and preparing the next generation of Midwest climate leaders to lead the transition to a clean and just energy future. Youth organizers across the region are hard at working finalizing workshops and logistics around the five main conference tracks coal, fracking, political engagement, tar sands, and the clean energy economy. A dynamic list of workshop are available online, including:

  • Energy Efficiency on Your Campus: It’s in Your Hands
  • Beyond Madison: Rural Wisconsinites Stand Up for Their Communities
  • Building Power for the 2012 Election
  • Food Desserts and Solutions to Food Access in the Inner City
  • New Media for New Organizers
  • Follow the Sun: Starting a Solar Company in the Midwest

Learn more about the Powershift Electives

Each of these tracks aim to empower coordinated regional or cross-state action/collaboration. Furthermore, members of the Midwest Youth Coalition are leveraging the opportunity of Midwest Power Shift to launch a youth steering committee with representation from each Midwest state, tasked with the following responsibilities:

  • Support for coordinated actions/campaigns/events
  • Cohesive messaging from a regional youth perspective
  • Resource bank
  • Asset mapping process

In the tradition of National Power Shift, Midwest Power Shift will also provide space for state breakouts as a means to supporting state networks. Currently, MI, OH, and IL are the only states with a formal state network structure, with MN and MO in the process.

The registration page is still open for any last minute participants, and features a phenomenal blog roll from youth organizers across the US:

Register for Powershift

For a quick overview of the goal, purpose, and tenor of Midwest Power Shift, check out this inspiring video from conference organizer and Director of the Ohio Student Environmental Council, Janina Klimas:

Published in Youth Action

powershift logoWhat does the Midwest have to do with a clean energy future (or a dirty energy future, it's our choice)? Everything. Did you know that the Midwest region contributes 25 percent of total US carbon emissions (if you include Ohio and Indiana)? That the Midwest relies on coal for 70 percent of its electric power, a larger share than any other region of the United States? That we are home to significant natural gas extraction (fracking) in Ohio and Pennsylvania? And that we house the proposed corridor for the Keystone XL Pipeline feeding our oil addiction from the Alberta Tar Sands, which NASA scientist Dr James Hansen describes as “Game over” for the climate? If you're not outraged you should be.

But that's just one side of the coin. We are also home to some of the largest wind energy potential in the country. The home of multiple hotly contested swing states with Midwest policy-makers who are often neither green-leaning as on the coasts, nor aligned with fossil fuel interests as in the west and south. We have energy efficiency policies in six of our Midwestern states and have promoted the most rigorous cap and trade program in the country. The Midwest is also rich in bio-energy feedstocks for fuels, power, and biogas, from energy crops to agricultural and forestry bioproducts to animal wastes. We house multiple land-grant universities who have research capabilities that are natural drivers and beneficiaries of new energy investment.  We are also home to a manufacturing base that makes everything from turbine towers to turbo-chargers and can drive and prosper from a shift to a low-carbon technology.

Along with all this potential, it also just so happens that we are also home to one of the most vibrant regional youth climate movements in the country. Coincidence? I don't think so! Of the 10,000 young people who descended on the National Power Shift youth summit in Washington DC in 2011, Midwest youth made up almost a quarter of all participants. Midwest youth have played a critical role in getting commitments from ten+ Midwest college and university campuses to move beyond coal. Youth organizers in Detroit, Cleveland and Minneapolis are breathing new life into industrial cities through community partnerships and green economy initiatives focused on clean energy technology and energy efficiency. Youth in Wisconsin are taking Governor Scott walker to task as he attempts to destroy the unions, derail high-speed rail, and undo years of environmental progress across the state. From the Dakotas to Ohio, Midwest youth are taking a stand on environmental justice and organizing in resistance to Tar Sands and the Keystone Pipeline, organizing in tribal communities, on college campuses and in urban and rural counties alike.

If you're not outraged you should be. But I hope you feel the optimism as well. The work ethic that built this country flows strong our veins as we roll up our sleeves and get to work, fueled by a deep love for this land - our great cities, the prairies, the great lakes, the north woods - and all that we know we can be. We are ready for the Midwest to lead the country in the transition to a clean energy economy and ask you to join us in making this vision a reality at Midwest Power Shift. See you in Cleveland!

Midwest Power Shift
October 21st - 23rd
Cleveland State University
Cleveland, OH

Published in Youth Action
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