It's unreal - we're here, we've made it, we are in Washington, D.C. getting ready to participate in the nation's largest grassroots organizer training EVER. We (19 excited Carleton students) are at Powershift 2011!
I won't bore you much with the details of the trip (what can I really say about 22 hours on a bus?) but it was nice to meet the 31 students from Macalester, watch The Lion King and Finding Nemo, do some schoolwork and attempt to sleep. When we finally rolled into D.C. and the Washington Monument came into view, boy were we excited.
There weren't too many conference happenings tonight, that is, if you don't count the opening Keynote address and the fact that the biggest speaker tonight was none other than Vice President AL GORE.
Some sound bites from his speech, a passionate piece urging us to help create political solutions to climate change:
On people who think climate change is a myth and excess CO2 is not a problem: "You can't negotiate with the laws of physics. You can't mend the laws of physics. You have to respond to reality."
"I want to issue a challenge...We can solve this. And we can create a better world."
"If you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. We need to go far...quickly."
After Vice President Gore spoke, we heard from a group called WeatherizeDC and the green jobs they are creating. They introduced Van Jones, a charismatic man with a wide smile who used to work as an advisor on green jobs to President Obama. Jones told us to "shift the power." He said that though the lawmakers in DC seem to be "stuck on stupid," our generation is now "rising." He asked us if we had smart phones, laptop computers or iPads, and then pointed out that we "have more computing power than the U.S. government when it put a man on the moon."
After Jones, we heard from a blur of incredible people all working towards a common goal, though all from different organizations: the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Coalition, the Sierra Club, the Energy Action Coalition (the group hosting Powershift) and more.
A final highlight for us, as the opening keynote wound down, was hearing from Whit Jones, a Carleton graduate now working for the Energy Action Coalition. When he took the stage, we tensed, and as soon as he mentioned he was a Carleton graduate, we erupted in cheering. He proceeded to tell the story of Carleton's first wind turbine and how the idea for it came from a grassroots group of students who wanted to make change. Wow.
It's late, so I'm off to bed to rest up for tomorrow's whirlwind - training and organizing sessions in the morning and a variety of workshops in the afternoon. If you're interested, the full schedule can be found here.