Power Shift is an incredible opportunity for environmental activists, a vital moment in capitalizing on the momentum of increased awareness about climate change, fracking, and the green economy (to name a few). But what about those of us who aren’t professionally involved in going green? What does Power Shift have to offer to, say, someone who is involved in social services? What about activists that work with at-risk populations in their communities?
As someone deeply committed to social justice, I saw the potential for accomplishing important work in Power Shift immediately. My connections to the green economy are vague – as a native of southwestern Pennsylvania, I have seen firsthand the problems that come with the proliferation of fracking sites, but my understanding of the movement mostly ends there (something I hope will change after next weekend!). My forte lies more in working with communities to encourage healthy choices, self-agency, and positive change that benefits generations to come.
Still, I sense that there are important things for people involved in social services and community health to take away from the conference. Powershift is all about organizing – organizing around issues, organizing with each other, organizing in communities across the country. This past summer, I worked out of the western governor’s office in Massachusetts with the family homeless shelter of the Department of Housing and Community Development. Many families we served had been homeless for extended periods of time, and sometimes even struggled to find food, let alone shelter. Unfortunately, the requirements of the program prevented some families from utilizing our services. It was very difficult to turn away people I knew probably had no alternative – I could literally have been sending them back to sleeping on the streets. Networking between organizations became key in these situations: even if I couldn’t place them in one of our shelters, I could still give them a list of community resources that might be able to give them better support.
And here’s where Power Shift comes in. What’s transpiring this October is a meeting place for all kinds of activists, working on all types of issues, to come together and build a network of support which reaches far beyond any single community. It’s going to be a place to exchange ideas, inspire others, and lend a shoulder to commiserate about a line of work that is, at times, extremely daunting. No matter what cause we are fighting for, we can draw strength from each other and find new ways to better serve our communities. With coordinated efforts, our reach can only improve.