Over D.C., Into Pittsburgh, Towards a New Country!

As we celebrate a government that is open, let’s take a second to remember that it’s ridiculous that the shutdown even happened. Let’s take a second as well to consider that the government more often than not is working against us even when it’s working. As Power Shift 2013 arrives in Pittsburgh today and tomorrow, let’s remember why we’re here, not D.C.

In 2009, even in 2011, it made sense to be in D.C. There was a climate bill on the table, we mustered the largest single-issue lobby day in history. Hell, Hurricane Sandy hadn’t happened. Fukushima hadn’t been dumping 300 metric tons of radioactive waste per day into the Pacific for two years. Things were looking up!

Then Barack Obama has a press conference saying natural gas is clean energy. Then Keystone XL becomes a bargaining tool in the budget negotiations, as if it is at all negotiable! Then, we hear about TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, referred to as NAFTA on steriods, secretly negotiated by corporations and governments and up for a vote in just a few months.

Yeah, I’m over D.C.

Grand Aspirations as a whole is mobilizing in Pittsburgh with other activists from around the country because we just don’t have time anymore. We just can’t wait any longer for the stodgy and corrupt Congresspeople to start giving a damn about everything from the American indigenous populations to the Gulf of Mexico. We just don’t have time anymore to negotiate sub-par energy bills and pollution standards. We need to STOP. We need to ORGANIZE. We need to DISOBEY. We need to BUILD SOMETHING NEW.

Power Shift is a challenge because it is not the end, it is the means. Many of us organizing the conference have been pouring effort into what will happen there because we want to structure the next steps, not just have a great conference. The Green Economy Working Group, a function of the Energy Action Coalition, has the goal of setting up 100 new Green Economy projects after the concert, and I’m hella pumped to say that these are on the way! The network is in place, the flyers are printed. We’re ready for Pittsburgh.

We’re not going to be lobbying, we’re going to be planning. We’re not going to be marching on a deaf White House with an ambivalent climate traitor inside, we’re going to mobilize against fracking at the heart of its dirty soul. We’re going to Pittsburgh because, to lift a term from undercover climate activist Winnie the Pooh, we could give less than one bother about Congress at this point.

I’ll be at the Green Economy Hub. Let’s hug and congratulate each other on being a part of the most important people’s movement in history: the movement to save our planet and each other from the stained and greedy fingers of corporation and government alike.

See you there!
-Anthony Peregrine Betori

Guest Blog: Why Solutionaries and Social Services Need to Network

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.

-Rachel Susko

Guest Blog: TPP and the Climate Struggle!

Imagine this: you spend years organizing with your community to stop the destructive practice of fracking that is poisoning your water supply. The power of the people pulls through and you win! Your local government passes a moratorium on fracking. Time to celebrate, right?

But wait– you just got news that a foreign oil and gas company is suing your government for $250 million dollars for violating their “right” to frack under an international agreement that was signed 20 years ago.

Sound completely outrageous? Last month, Lone Pine, an American oil and gas company, filed an official lawsuit against the government of Canada for passing a moratorium on fracking under the St. Lawrence river in Quebec.  Lone Pine is pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that gives transnational corporations the power to sue NAFTA governments should they pass policies that violate their potential profits.

Yes, you read that correctly. In the name of “free trade,” transnational corporations are being elevated to the status of nation-states through binding international free trade agreements. These agreements rewrite laws and regulations that act as “trade irritants”– such as environmental protections, labor laws, food safety standards, or financial regulations. And if any participating country attempts to move forward with policies in the public interest, corporations can sue for hundreds of millions of dollars if they violate their “right” to make profit.

And right now, the Obama administration is seeking to extend this power to 30,000 more companies under a new potential free trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP includes 12 countries and would encompass 40% of the global economy, making it the most ambitious trade agreement in U.S. history. While 600 corporations have been given official “trade advisor status”, the public has no access to the content of these negotiations. Congress has had no say either, even as they rewrite important laws and protections that our legislators have passed in the public interest. The TPP will bring a wave of new corporate attacks including weakened environmental regulation, extreme increases in dirty energy exports like fracking, and work to undermine our movements by making it difficult to enact new regulations in the future.

The enemy is clever and stealthy. They have devised ingenious ways to quietly pass far-reaching, devastating policies through the back door and destroy what little democratic power we hold now. The TPP is the perfect example. Many of us didn’t see it coming, and worse, many still do not know what is upon us. But it’s not too late– we can still stop the TPP. There is still hope– we hold a tremendous amount of power.  It is times like these that require mass coordination and mobilization on an international scale. Not only so we can beat back global monsters like the TPP, but so that we may be move past positions of defense and take the power to determine our own future. While we work on local levels in our communities, we must also coordinate and communicate with our other brothers and sisters across the country that are fighting the same fight.

This month, join me at Powershift, where 10,000 young organizers from across the country will come together to connect and coordinate. I’ll be there to discuss current efforts to stop free trade agreements like the TPP, and learn from others how we can all work together. With globalized enemies, we need globalized resistance. Let us come together to celebrate our movement and find new ways to amplify our power through unity. Will I see you there?


Natalie Yoon is the National Organizer for United Students for Fair Trade. They recently launched their Topple the TPP campaign. Learn how to support the campaign here, and email Natalie at natalie@usft.org for more ways to get involved and where to find her at Powershift!