PowerShift: From Isolated Movements to Transformative Change

Article excerpt

IN FEBRUARY, organizers involved with unions, environmental groups, Indigenous groups, the student movement, faith communities and independent media gathered in a small meeting room in downtown Ottawa while another handful of organizers from across the country connected in over the phone. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they, all of whom are under the age of 30, had a common vision of building "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." It was from this vision that they laid the groundwork for PowerShift 2032.

PowerShift, which took place in Ottawa and Gatineau on October 26-29, is a convergence of passionate youth from across the country to explore multiple ways of taking action. Ever since that meeting in February, more and more youth who were already mobilizing in their communities and who are new to organizing have joined together to make it happen. The weekend included workshops and panels with topics as diverse as "Energy Workers' Vision for a Just and Sustainable Future," "Migration and Climate Justice," and "Mobilizing Faith-Based Communities to Action."

Ben Powless was involved in planning Canada's first PowerShift in 2009, and was amongst the group defining the vision for this year's gathering. Ben articulates why many youth find PowerShift 2012'S goal of climate justice, which is more than just stopping climate change, to be key. "Climate justice is ... perhaps something unique to my generation. The linking of environment to social justice is a relatively new phenomenon, a pretty substantial shift from the environmentalism of the 60s and 70s. It is an attempt to bring in an understanding of how factors such as poverty, race, gender, colonialism, even capitalism and democracy, are very much intertwined with environmental issues and vice versa." Ben, who is also an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, went on to say, "Personally I think a big issue is linking Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and human rights, which has a huge overlap with environmental justice. …