Students call McCaskill to action at Power Shift
With a clean energy bill on the Senate floor, Power Shift Missouri ’09 ended with a rally on Sunday in front of St. Louis City Hall that aimed to enunciate a clear message for Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The Missouri Democrat has yet to announce how she will vote on the new clean energy bill. Rally attendees called on her to fight for clean energy.
“Climate change affects all of our futures. We demand that you support strong clean energy legislation,” said Adam Hasz, a sophomore at Washington University and the campus coordinator at Wash. U. for Power Shift. “On this issue, when you vote, you represent more than just Missouri. Your constituency is the entire world. We will hold you accountable if you don’t vote accordingly.”
Hasz gave the first speech at the rally, which had about 60 attendees and concluded the three-day summit.
The summit, which was at Saint Louis University, is one of 11 regional conventions aimed at pushing clean energy legislation through Congress. The student movement was organized in Missouri by Brett Wiley and Hasz and was overseen by the Energy Action Coalition (EAC), an umbrella organization based in Washington, D.C., that helps environmental groups like Power Shift seek environmental legislation.
Missouri was given its own summit since McCaskill has shown no indication of how she will vote on the clean energy bill and because the state is well above average in its use of coal-based electricity. The proposed energy bill would call for reducing carbon emissions nationally by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
Passing a clean energy bill would also show that the United States is ready to lead the fight for clean energy at Copenhagen Climate Conference on Nov. 4, which will be attended by all members of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The statewide summit drew around 100 college and high school students from across the state, and while it was significantly smaller than the 12,000-student rally in Washington last February, the main message was the same.
“Within the next decade, the world needs to start reducing its greenhouse gas emissions,” Hasz said. “At that point, no matter how much we reduce our greenhouse gases, no matter how much clean energy we use instead of fossil fuels, there will be a chain reaction where the climate will deteriorate and there will be nothing we can do to stop it.”
The rally at City Hall was the most public event of the summit, complete with cheers for climate change like, “We won’t be fooled by fossil fuels. Don’t buy it, don’t try it,” and “Stop coal and oil, start wind and sun. This power shift has begun.” But Friday and Saturday were equally important for summit attendees.
Those in attendance spent the days learning the skills necessary for bringing more individuals into the fight for clean energy and beginning to receive the training necessary for working in a clean energy field.
All of these ideas melded together at Sunday’s rally. Hasz discussed the political side to the rally before Patrick Brown, a senior instructor at the Office of Applied Innovations, spoke on the necessity of training individuals in environmental professions such as weatherizing and solar panel installation. With this training, Brown preached that individuals can make a difference in the fight for clean energy while earning enough money to live and support a family.
The rally was concluded by Jessy Tolkan, executive director of the EAC, who chose to attend the rally to reach out to McCaskill and demonstrate that Missouri, a state with large coal lobbies from Peabody and Arch Coal, was ready for change.
“I do believe that the clean energy revolution will take hold first in the Midwest, and I think that Missouri is a state with enormous potential. It started when the students at Wash. U. did remarkable work around the debates last year, so I knew that Missouri was an important place to come and support the emerging network of new leaders,” Tolkan said. “And I think we have a tough fight on our hands with Senator McCaskill, and I just want Senator McCaskill to know that we will stand up for her when she leads on this issue.”
Using her speech as more of an inspirational call than a push for agendas, Tolkan asked the attendees of the rally to be ambassadors of truth and insisted that “it’s our generation that’s setting the terms of this debate.”
While Power Shift may have originated to push a political agenda, Hasz will call the summit a success only if the summit attendees bring environmental action to their campuses.
“The only way this movement will be successful is if it continues to spread, and it needs to spread fast given the timeframe of Copenhagen,” Hasz said.
The summit also demonstrated why the attendees feel that action toward reducing carbon emissions is necessary now, which is tough to prove to most young adults.
“We are not seeing the effects [of global warming] in our faces every day, to see the need to take action now…This is something that needs action now, and that’s what I want to see come out of Power Shift,” said sophomore Arielle Klagsbrun, who worked on recruitment for Power Shift on campus.
Hasz and Klagsbrun, who are also members of Green Action, stressed that their efforts to bring about clean energy action and reform only began at Power Shift. They are planning to reach out to McCaskill, the coal companies and students to fight for clean energy. They also plan on bringing many more University students who were unable to attend the summit due to fall break plans.
St. Louis will be at the forefront of the clean energy community next Saturday, the 350 International Climate Day of Action. The largest environmental rally in state history is set to occur that afternoon. Called Action at the Arch, the rally will come complete with a concert and speeches that continue the call for environmental action. The rally will begin at noon.