More than 50 GW students joined 12,000 young activists from across the country in D.C. over the weekend for the annual Power Shift environmental summit.
The conference, based at the D.C. Convention Center, focused on training environmental activists to lobby Congress on green issues. Organizers also hosted a Capitol Hill rally, demanding bold change in climate and energy policy prioritizing renewable energy and green jobs.
The group of GW attendees comprised the second largest group from the District at the conference, said Seth Sprinkle, director of the Green GW student organization.
“We’re really hoping that since a lot of [Green GW] members are attending and members of the student body are attending, once they come back they will understand how important it is to take that energy from the conference and translate it to campus,” Sprinkle said.
Three days of seminars and activities like the “greening your school panel” culminated in a march to Capitol Hill Monday. Protesters said they want to hold elected officers accountable for their constituencies and campaign promises, and demanded that Congress work to reduce carbon emissions.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was slated to be the rally’s keynote speaker, but could not make it to Washington due to the heavy snowfall in D.C. Sunday and Monday.
But the inclement weather did not keep thousands of students and Power Shift attendees away, as demonstrators – many donning green hard hats – braved the snow and harsh conditions to get their message across.
“Snow is why we’re here. It matters if we don’t take care of the environment,” said Julie Hansen, a freshman at the University of Dayton.
After the rally, participants at Power Shift – which is in its third year and organized by the Energy Action Coalition, a grassroots environmental lobbying group – dispersed into groups for 350 scheduled meetings with congressmen from every state.
Apart from lobbying on Capitol Hill, seminars centered on educating participants to make them better environmental advocates, as well as networking and finding job opportunities. Junior Caitlin Marquis, who participated in Power Shift for the second year in a row, said the conferences she attended have been helpful and said she has come back with lots of ideas about green initiatives.
But some students found the conference to be less effective than it could have been.
“The whole conference is funny because they’re talking to a population that already agrees with them,” said Randy Caruso, a junior. “You don’t have the opposition.”
Gabrielle Bluestone contributed to this report.