Youth Climate Movement Set to Take Capitol by Storm

  • Published on February 25th, 2009

Power Shift 09 pushes policymakers for action on global warming

jessy tolkan of power shift

This weekend more than ten thousand young people from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district will descend upon the nation’s capitol for four days of peace, love, and music workshops, panels, lobbying, skills training, and a bit of music. That’s right, this isn’t exactly your parents’ environmental movement.


The four-day Power Shift 09 event will culminate on March 2, with what event organizers are calling the single largest lobby day for action on climate change and energy, and an address by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with Jessy Tolkan, one of the key organizers behind the event, to talk about the historic weekend in Washington, DC. The articulate and energetic Tolkan was quick to point out that the youth climate movement is not just about cutting carbon emissions, but that it is also about creating social and economic justice, growing the economy, and giving voice to a cross-section of young people from diverse backgrounds.

“This is a politically powerful group of people, a group of people that voted in record numbers that helped create massive political change,” said Tolkan, adding, “But our political participation and political power did not end on election day. We’re here to ensure that our members of congress and our political leadership make good on the promises they made on the campaign trail.”

On Monday, Tolkan and thousands of others will take their well-crafted message to Capitol Hill with a very detailed prescription of what bold climate policy looks like. Part of their policy platform includes a call for an immediate moratorium on all new coal-fired power plants, which Tolkan says, “are quite literally destroying communities across the country right now.”

When I asked what she thought about President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night, Tolkan spoke enthusiastically, and for good reason, the President’s remarks on climate and energy dovetail with Power Shift’s agenda. Tolkan told me:

“A year ago it would have been unheard of to hear the president so clearly and so boldly about action on climate change and energy… we are so optimistic as a movement to have a president that has committed so publicly to ensure bold action and we see it as our job to continue to push the envelope to make sure that that action and direction is realized in strong legislation from the Congress.”

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.