10 Ways Power Shift is What Democracy Looks Like

04/16/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

What happens when you put 12,000 high school and college students with a sprinkling of young adults and a pinch of older activists together for one weekend to mobilize around global warming? I happened to have had the privilege of being amongst these young activists at Power Shift in Washington, DC this weekend and it's pretty hard to be immune to their positive, upbeat, hopeful and inspiring energy. It was especially motivating to be there after eight years of zero leadership on global warming and lots of pro-coal, oil and nuclear policies, coupled with plenty of doctored EPA reports. Young people of all stripes were there to learn, listen, educate and become leaders on the most important environmental issue facing our planet today--global warming. Here are some of the organizations I've learned about at Power Shift. And, if you're wondering why my list seems to be dominated by groups fighting coal, it's because it was a huge topic at the conference!

1. Did you know that over $200 billion will be invested in new coal fired power plants within 10 years? Who is funding these plants? If you bank at Bank of America, Royal Bank of Canada or Citi, then your financial institution is financing these dirty projects. Get involved with

2. How is the Gulf Coast doing? Not so well if you talk to the folks at the Healthy Gulf organization. Oil and gas industries continue to dredge land the size of multiple football fields on a daily basis, coupled with massive silt build-up and loss of wetlands that provide much needed coastal protection. Get involved with them at

3. What ever happened to those quaint family farmers who used to provide us with our daily food? They're still around and fighting to not be gulped up by giant agribusinesses that are supported by government policies that encourage their growth. Learn how you can support local, family farmers with the National Family Farm Coalition.

4. How about Dick Cheney's second favorite power source after oil? Yes, nuclear is still moving forward at full steam despite serious environmental and health concerns. Act now with Beyond Nuclear to get all of the facts and true costs of nuclear.

5. The Black Mesa Water Coalition is located on the Navajo and Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona a region that has experienced strip mining by the Peabody Coal Company for 40 years. Now, these Native American young adults and students are leading efforts to stop coal mining and galvanize them to reduce their carbon emissions.

6. Thousands of acres of mountain-tops in West Virginia and other coal-rich states are being stripped bare by companies desperate to get to their cash crop as quickly as possible by blowing up mountain-tops. It's ruining local communities who have been devastated economically, socially and physically by this horrific practice. Learn more about this issue with Mountain Keeper, led by Larry Gibson, a humble West Virginian who is working to protect mountain communities from greedy corporate giants.

7. The Indigenous Environmental Network is fighting environmentally destructive projects in North America that most severely impact native communities, such as the Tar Sands projects in Canada and the Coal Bed Methane in the US.

8. Have you heard of Environmental Justice? It's about stopping the environmental racism that is happening in low-income communities of color that have a disproportionately high number of power plants, oil refineries, industrial waste facilities, etc. And, this means worse health-outcomes in these communities. You can get involved with the Energy Justice Network today.

9. Climate Solutions took a road trip across India. But, this road trip was so noteworthy that even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote about it because it was a group of young people from around the world in an electric car. Learn more about their trip and campaign to promote clean energy.

10. What does 350ppm mean? Global warming can get a bit complicated on the science front, but this is pretty simple: carbon dioxide emissions are currently at 384.75 parts per million and scientists say we need to get down to 350ppm. October 24, 2009 will be a global day of action lead by the 350 coalition to send a message to international leaders that the citizens of the world are united in their support for sound, science-based policies to reduce CO2 emissions and address global warming.

After surviving eight years of Bush & Co., change is within our grasp. Although the facts I just listed are depressing, there was a sense of possibility at the conference. It's not about one person leading the fight-we are all in this together now to stop global warming.

Sarah's Social Action Snapshot originally appeared on