On October 23-26, 2009, over 1000 young people from across the country converged on Ottawa to take a message of bold, comprehensive and immediate federal climate action to Parliament Hill. The Power Shift conference was two days of training, strategy and action and one mass lobby day to hold our elected officials accountable for their part to solve the climate crisis, and to build a cohesive and effective youth climate movement. This was be the largest-ever gathering of young people on the environment in the history of this country.
At Power Shift Canada, we delivered our message of change to our elected officials. Youth of all backgrounds came together to create a fresh, positive, and inspiring vision of the future, one focused on our potential to overcome the challenges of the 21st century, build a clean energy economy, create millions of green jobs, increase global equity, and revitalize our economy. Now is the time for action. Now is the time for boldness. We will accept nothing less from the people with whom we have entrusted our future: our elected officials, and most importantly, ourselves. 2009 was a year history will remember.
2011 was a year of people’s power. From mass mobilizations in Greece and Spain, throughout North Africa and the Middle East, to Occupy Wall Street and the struggle against the Keystone XL and Gateway pipelines, movements of ordinary people emerged and set the stage for much needed changes to today’s economic, social and political landscape. For many, 2011 spelled a darker and tougher time, with climate change-induced disasters and spiraling economic inequality and misery. But it also re-kindled a fire, an appetite for greater justice, for a more equal and collaborative society.
Youth were at the forefront of these movements. In Canada, too, they are rising to the occasion. Power Shift 2012 will gather young people from across the country to build on this momentum and strengthen the movement for climate and environmental justice.
We will be organizing Powershift 2012 while young people face a difficult, uphill battle to create a just and sustainable future. Canada has abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, eliminated energy efficiency programs and continues to subsidize and promote the fossil fuel industry, acts that threaten our air, water, land and the climate. Our present and future economic welfare is also at risk. We see daily reports promising cuts to our public services, the dismantling of our social security, the loss of workers rights, and tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them.
The economic and climate crises we are facing have the same roots — the relentless drive to put short-term economic profits over the interests of our communities and the environment. We can find joint solutions to the climate and economic crisis: by reining in corporate power and its undue influence over our political process, by reviving and strengthening our public sphere, by localizing our economies and our food system. Such long term solutions and alternatives will safeguard our communities and our environment.
Power Shift 2012 aims to build an environmental and climate justice movement that can transform our society, so that our future can be enjoyed by everyone, not only those who can afford it. Power Shift is organized by youth for youth and aims to mobilize passionate youth from affected communities and various sectors of civil society to explore multiple ways of taking action and work to develop each other’s capacity and abilities.
Power Shift is also about learning from each other, learning together, and using that knowledge to develop common strategies for creating positive change. Power Shift aims to ensure that once the gathering is over our movement continues to grow through networks, common strategies and continued capacity building.
While the focus of the gathering is centered on youth, we recognize that youth must become allies of frontline and affected communities and other parts of society that are active in fighting for climate justice. We also invite other parts of society to be supportive of youth efforts and to participate in creating a better future for everyone.
Climate and environmental justice will be the primary focus of Power Shift 2012. Beyond education, mobilization, and collective action, the gathering will include in-depth discussions on the role of frontline and indigenous communities, environmental racism, dependence on oil, economic inequalities that stem from the extractive and carbon industries, as well as solutions to these crises such as food sovereignty, renewable energy, and public transportation.
By strengthening our grassroots movements across the country and by re-defining the priorities that are important to us, our communities will regain power and create the possibility for transformative change.