By Cara Cooper, KSEC Organizer
A lot of times in the environmental movement, and probably most movements, it is easy to become distraught or discouraged. The injustices that you are choosing to fight are HUGE, and the odds against you sometimes seem impossible. This is how I was feeling in the spring semester of 2009, my junior year.
I had been working with my campus organization to help improve on campus recycling and encourage our landscaping company to plant with native plants and eliminate their pesticide and fertilizer uses. We were making a lot of progress, but it just didn't feel like we were doing enough. I mean here we were on the brink of a climate meltdown and surrounded by environmental injustice and we were just 10 students, with big hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, and no idea how to make that happen.
Then I landed in Washington DC, for the 2nd Bi-annual Power Shift conference. Unsure of what to expect but feeding on the adrenaline of being in our nation's capital and on my first real trip as an young adult, I made my way over to the DC convention center. I arrived first thing in the morning for registration and received my agenda for the weekend (which was packed full of amazing workshops, speakers, and what? a march to capitol hill??!) as people started to fill the room the energy level became almost palpable. We could have probably harnessed the excited energy and powered the entire conference, and it was that high that carried me through the entire weekend.
Now I can't exactly remember what workshops I attended, although I do remember someone telling me it was time to stop treating our soil like dirt, what I took away from Power Shift 2009 was something much more important. It was in those moments, surrounded by literally 12,000+ young people from every state in the country, I realized that I was part of a movement. Part of something so much larger than myself, than my campus group, than anything I had ever imagined before. I was not alone in this fight, I never was, for you were all out there, slowly but valiantly chipping away at the injustice with me. I realized that together we could achieve our goals.
And not only were there thousands of young people dreaming of and working for that better tomorrow that I wanted, but they were kicking some ass. I met high school students who had accomplished major victories in their communities and front-line community members who were risking their lives in order to save their lives from the fossil fuel industry, and so many more people who were pumped and ready for action. I knew it was time for me to step up my game. I couldn't just encourage my university to take small steps towards sustainability, I needed to organize myself and my peers to dismantle the unjust system that allows environmental destruction to occur because together, each doing our part, we are going to win this fight. Power Shift 2013 will be in Pittsburgh PA Oct. 18-21
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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