Berkeley Students Share Lessons Learned from Power Shift 2013

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On Tuesday, December 3, UC Berkeley students who attended the largest youth climate conference in the nation, Power Shift 2013, brought together on-campus leaders, local organizers, and concerned students to begin a conversation on how to build cross-organizational solidarity. Student and local leaders representing a variety or different organizations conveyed what organization they represented, and more importantly, why their organization’s goals were so critical to climate justice as a whole. By the end of the two hour-long meeting, the sense of empowerment was tangible as students and local organizers enthusiastically talked about what still needs to be done, and how all the represented organizations were interconnected.

The first organization to present was IGNITE, which stands for “Invest in Graduation, Not Incarceration, to Transform Education”. The representative from this group, Disha Banik, described the school-to-prison pipeline that puts minority youth at the mercy of school officials who can all too easily expel them, which greatly increases their chance of ending up in prison. Disha highlighted several pieces of legislation currently going through California’s government, and stressed the need for support in making sure the right legislation is passed. Her e-mail contact is: disha.banik@gmail.com

Next, representatives Chris Lenz and Sustainable John from Fossil Free Cal discussed the importance of our campus divestment campaign. They are working on getting Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Berkeley Foundation President Scott Biddy, and President Janet Napolitano to stop financing climate change by moving UC Berkeley’s endowment beyond fossil fuels. Much support is needed to put pressure on these decision makers. They have a petition on their website fossilfreecal.org that all of us should sign!

Third, Zen Trenholm introduced a new coalition group, Students Against Fracking, which just formed recently with the purpose of bringing together Cal’s environmentally minded organizations to stop fracking in our very own state of California.  As the coalition group is in its nascent stage, much support is needed, and every voice counts. The next meeting is on Monday, December 9, in 337 Mulford (SERC) at 6pm. E-mail all questions to Roberta Giordano at giordanorobie@berkeley.edu. Check out the California Student Sustainability Coalition for more information on student coalitions across the state; your input is needed!

California students at Power Shift in Pittsburgh, PA.

California students at Power Shift in Pittsburgh, PA.

The last student speakers, Morgan Prentice and Viveka Jagadeesa represented Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization that is currently combatting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which allows legislators and big business to collaborate and draft model bills ranging from voting rights to environmental protection. Some climate change’s worst perpetrators like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil help draft legislation that is not in the public interest. Interestingly, companies like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, considered the white knights of global industry and business, are also recent joiners of ALEC. Common Cause has its next meeting on Wednesday at 7pm in 31 Evans. Please contact Morgan at mlprentice18@gmail.com for more information.

After these amazing student representatives spoke, several local organizers also introduced their organizations that are combatting climate justice issues right here in the Bay Area. First, Lyana Monterrey of the Pittsburg Defense Council explained how her town and neighborhood would be aversely affected if Pittsburg approved of the new crude oil terminal. Asthma, cancer, and fires are just some of the negative effects bound to happen if the terminal is approved. To get involved, visit their website at pittsburgdc.org for more information.

Lastly, Andrés Soto of Communities for a Better Environment discussed a multitude of problems facing Richmond, and underscored how all these issues are interconnected. The industries that are forcing small towns like Pittsburg to take on crude oil storage, proposing incoming frack shale, and getting refineries surrounding the Bay Area ready for more dirty fuels are targeting susceptible neighborhoods and local governments for one purpose only: profit. Profit, at the cost of our communities’ health, economy, infrastructure, and safety.

At this point in time, we cannot afford to stay silent and do nothing against these companies that do not care about public welfare. Our community goes beyond our UC Berkeley campus; we are students living in the Bay Area, in the State of California. So, let us be proactive in joining organizations like these and making our voices heard!

Angie

Angie is a 3rd year Cal student majoring in Microbial Biology. She has been a Greenpeace Semester student activist, and is now primarily concerned with environmental advocacy, healthcare, and methods of effective communication for environmental activism.

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