I have become an organizer first, and then a student. Over the past term I have struggled to keep up with the normal cycle of homework, class, work, and the small social life I can afford time for. Papers stack up, grade points slip down, and my general health and happiness has felt the toll of the average and everyday workload of a student in America. I know that by the time I earn my degree, there will be thousands of other young, unemployed degree holders competing in the job market. I also know that there will be tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt looming over my head like storm clouds. I have experienced firsthand some of the difficulties associated with the tough choices being made by our generation. When I chose to move to Arizona to help my brother pay for school, I was making a tough choice to help a loved one get ahead. This choice set back my own struggling education by two years. When he chose to use his degree get a job in Baghdad that would allow him to work limitless hours in a war zone, he was making a tough choice to sacrifice his safety and happiness in an effort to live the majority of his life debt free.
Compared to the choices like those, that young Americans are making every day, the choice to sacrifice some of my grade in a couple of my classes to take a group of students to Power Shift was an easy choice to make. I had already dug a deep hole in a couple of classes, having also spent many volunteer hours this term helping a group of students with shifting the OSU Green Energy Fee toward a model that would also address energy efficiency on campus. I knew that attending Power Shift would spell almost certain failure in a couple of my classes. I also knew that the challenges facing my generation are bigger than maintaining a robust GPA.
The youth climate and sustainability movement is reaching a point of metamorphosis. We are coming of age as our economic, environmental and social systems are changing more rapidly than ever before. Many of the changes are unveiling monumental challenges that threaten the well being of current and future generations of life on this planet. In late February, 12,000 young people converged on D.C. to take action at Power Shift. We knew that business as usual would not solve the unique crisis of ecological, economic, and even social instability that has been handed to our generation.
“We are the people we are waiting for,” and we know it. We understand that the choices of today will create the challenges and opportunity of tomorrow, and that ultimately, the challenge of our generation will be to survive the choices of today. We understand that we cannot stand by and let other people make those difficult choices without us. One powerful understanding we now have is that we can come together and make history. When we chose to stand together at Power Shift we made history three fold. The young people of this country organized the largest climate conference in American history, the largest climate lobby day in American history, and the largest non-violent direct action on coal in American history. We did all these things on the same weekend, and we did them as a community of hopeful and creative leaders. We are the people we are waiting for and we have decided to lead.
At this moment, thousands of fired up youth climate activists are beginning to plan the next national action. We have gone to visit our elected officials in their offices, we have confronted dirty energy on the streets, and we have strengthened our community. We have already made lasting change on hundreds of campuses across the country, and we are now ready to showcase these solutions and continue the dialogue with our elected officials when they return home during the congressional spring recess. We will continue to lead our country toward creating the sustainable, just, and prosperous future that we know is possible.
Over the summer Summer of Solutions will engage students with community members to catalyze 15 community and neighborhood scale solutions. This summer will also see students making the choice to spend up to 70 days riding their bikes to Washington D.C. in solidarity with Summer of Solutions, on the Trek to Re-Energize America. The Sierra Student Coalition will be hosting 9 student environmental leadership trainings, Sprogs, which will give in-depth grassroots organizing trainings to nearly 400 emerging youth climate champions. We know that this is our time, and we can make a difference. If we act as bold, collaborative, humble, and just leaders we can shift our country into a global climate leadership role by December, when the global community meets in Copenhagen to discuss the next global climate treaty. This is a moment in history that we can make ours! I am honored and Inspired to be lucky enough to know so many awesome youth activists around the country. I can’t wait to see what we do together… Its truly going to be one hot solutionary summer!
sorry about the pun…..
Nathan – This post is a thoughtful, articulate, and inspiring account of a phenomenon that many, many of us share. Thank you for your great ability to put choices that may seem like sacrifices into perspective. We are the people we have been waiting for. We really are.