by Surya Karki and Aneesa Khan
After 15 hours in our little Toyota Corolla, sleep deprived and hungry, we stumbled into the David L. Lawrence convention center in Pittsburgh on Friday the 18th. We were about an hour late for the opening keynote speech so we made a mad dash for the second floor. We walked into a ballroom buzzing with energy and we could feel it all around us. 10,000 people were leaning forward in their seats, the eagerness to make a change clear on their faces. “I mean come on guys, this is up to us, we have to do it. I just want to say, have a healthy disrespect for authority.” echoed Yudith A. Nieto’s closing statement. The crowd burst into applause, she got a standing ovation, and the uproar was enough to wake up half of Pittsburgh. We made it just in time to hear Yudith A. Nieto’s closing statement, but what an impact it had, it resonated so well with us. We were finally at Powershift 2013, a space where youth from all of the country and some from other parts of the world, had come to meet people with similar ideals and beliefs, to share their thoughts and ideas and to actually make a difference through action, not just talking.
Phillip Brian Agnew, executive director for Dream Defenders (a group that fights for equal rights for colored youth) claimed the stage. He stressed upon the point that he was not here to talk at us, but to talk to us. He was one of us, with the same dreams, with the same hope of solving so many of the problems the world. This was probably one of the things that drove so many people to come out to Powershift – It was run by the youth, for the youth. “Get up. Get on your feet and repeat after me. I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win.”, he said. Once again, the 6000 people got off of their chairs and began to yell out “I believe that we will win!” repeatedly until we actually believed it and felt the energy from everyone in the room. On that note we set off on our two-day journey of workshops, discussions and making new connections, all to shift the power from big corporations back into the hands of the general public, back into the hands of youth.
After a good nights rest, Saturday saw the arrival of the remaining delegation (myself, Adrian, Maytik, Klever and Julian) from Earth in Brackets. The five of them were just in time for a meeting to plan the workshop that Earth in Brackets, was going to give in collaboration with SustainUS, themed “Reclaiming the UN Talks”.
Tired, hungry and sleep deprived, we sat down with the Sustain US delegates to plan the workshop amidst all the other workshops that were being conducted to educate and mobilize the youth that had made their way from many different parts of the country to this gathering.
We had an hour to lay our plan, and agree on the format and themes to be covered in an hour-long workshop. We laid the story; it was going to be a workshop followed by a group discussion. The question that loomed after the hour-long meeting was: will there be enough interest from youth groups in taking a step to reclaiming the UN climate talks after our workshop, and the 4-day long Powershift?
After the short meeting, with the workshop in our minds, we decided to be inspired by the energy at Powershift and attend some of the many workshops on offer. Powershift offered a wide variety of discussions – talks on climate justice, food systems, race discrimination, imperialism, and power dynamics to name a few. This broad range definitely created an environment where people from different backgrounds with different interests could convene, have productive discussions and present their views on various issues of social and climate justice.
“UNFCCC 101”, gave me an insight into Copenhagen COP 15 through a role-play demonstration. Role-playing the dynamics of Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting was a brilliant idea for an audience with varying degree of knowledge. It generated many interesting questions between everyone in the hall.
The 20th of October was certainly a day filled with energetic youths at a conference hall in Pittsburgh, attending talks and plans for action. Every hour we moved from one room to the next, one panel talk to the other. We met a number of people with whom we could form connections and relationships to carry on the actions outside of Powershift. There was a general sense of understanding between the participants that Powershift did not end when the clock struck 12 on Sunday, 20th of October 2013. Powershift is a social movement, where what we learnt, the relationships we formed, the actions we took, and the agendas we made go on for as long as we stay involved.