Students bring the green to Washington

Climbing into vans and buses, 198 UVM students set off to Washington, D.C. to attend the largest youth climate change conference ever.

The conference, called Power Shift, is run by the Energy Action Coalition, an organization that runs campaigns to build the clean energy movement among youth in North America.

“Youth from all over the country come together and talk about climate change and how it affects different areas,” UVM sophomore and Power Shift coordinator Kristen Greenwald said.

There were about ten thousand people at the four-day rally with college groups coming from all over the country. UVM was the largest group there, beating Middlebury College by four people, Joanie Stultz, also a coordinator for Power Shift, said.

“We are demanding strict and just energy policy from our new administration and from our Congress,” Stultz said. “We will get down there and show our Congress that we demand that this sustainable future become a reality.”

“The point of Power Shift is to tell Obama and his administration that we are here, we want to make a change and this is what we stand for,” Greenwald said. “When he makes his decision, we want him to keep this in mind.”

Power Shift includes speakers, concerts, interactive panels and over 200 workshops that you can choose from, including environmental justice and student activism, Stultz said.

The Roots and Santogold played at the concert on Saturday night and UVM got front row seats and backstage passes, Greenwald said.

“We got a lot of national attention,” she said. People from other colleges have been calling us and asking how we got so big.”

While at Power Shift, students met with their legislatures, either from their own state or from Vermont and tried to “push bold and comprehensive legislation,” Greenwald said.

Students were told to research their legislator before they left for Power Shift so that they would know where their legislature stands and what questions to ask them, Greenwald said.

Vanessa Swinton, a freshman at UVM, took a bus provided by the Rubenstein School and stayed at George Washington University with a friend of hers. Students were hosted by several different families or they stayed in churches in the D.C. area, Stultz said.

Swinton was intrigued by Power Shift and decided to go after a friend of hers told her about it.

“I think that Power Shift is an important opportunity for students to get involved and make a bigger change in the world,” Swinton said.

To be a part of Power Shift, Swinton went to the meetings every Wednesday night and created a Facebook event to create awareness throughout the campus.

Freshman Caitlin Hill and other students going to Power Shift made cookies for the concert at Slade Hall and volunteered to help advertise for the Renewable Nations Institute and University, a small university in Northfield, Vt.

While in Washington, Hill carried around a clipboard and got signatures from people who would be willing to attend at least one semester at the Renewable Nations Institute and University. In return, the university donated $1,000 to the Power Shift group.

The Power Shift group raised $10,000 in the last three weeks, which surprised everyone.

“People were really motivated and that’s why this happened,” Greenwald said. “It would have fallen apart if people hadn’t been so motivated and responsible.”

“It’s been very busy with having students organize it, but I think what’s amazing about this is that it’s students from all across campus, from every college,” Stultz said. “Everyone was involved.”