Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mason Goes to Power Shift!

This weekend over 60 people from Mason will be heading into D.C. for Power Shift 2009, the largest conference on global warming ever assembled in the United States and possibly the largest in the world. Following the success of Power Shift 2007, the first ever national youth conference on global warming that occurred at the University of Maryland, Power Shift 2009 will bring together people from every state and Canadian province, Puerto Rico, and other countries from around the world. Specifically, over 10,000 young people will gather on Friday at the D.C. Convention Center with the intention of creating the impetus for bold and decisive solutions to the climate crisis.

People across the globe are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis including in the United States. Nationally these effects include the massive drought in the southeast, the raging forest fires in the west, and the thawing permafrost in Alaska. The causes are myriad; the destruction of the Amazon rainforests for the production of animal feed, over consumption of electricity in the U.S. and other developed countries, and excessive petroleum use for vehicles around the world are all examples.

According to Lauren Peery, first-year Global and Environmental Change student, “Power Shift represents a chance for me to actually do something truly meaningful. I already know that our country needs to be a leader when it comes to global warming, after this weekend I hope to be able to take that knowledge and turn it into action.”

Through both issue and skills based workshops, participants will gain the knowledge and proficiency they need to effectively tackle one of the biggest threats our society has ever faced. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the climate crisis is second only to the possibility of global nuclear war in terms of threatening humanity. The event will feature speakers such as Van Jones and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as musical guests Santogold and The Roots. More importantly, Power Shift will inspire over 10,000 young people to rise up and demand a just transition to a clean energy future.

Power Shift will culminate on Monday with two opportunities to take action. The first is a massive lobby day where thousands of people will confront their elected officials and insist that they enact legislation that will truly solve the climate crisis. The second opportunity is the Capital Coal Action which will be the largest civil disobedience in defiance of global warming ever organized. Environmental leaders such as Bill McKibben, Wendell Barry, and the Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Gus Speth, will stand alongside young people that are willing to risk arrest to make a symbolic statement to our elected officials: act immediately to reduce emissions, create jobs and re-engage globally to tackle the climate and economic crises.

“This is our opportunity to show the world that America is ready to be a leader in the fight against global warming,” said Senior Accounting major Bob McMurtry. “I want to be able to look back and tell my grandkids that I was there; I was one of the people that took a stand and made sure that our planet had a second chance.”

The organizers of Power Shift claim that history will likely show Power Shift 2009 as the one event that truly turned the tide against the climate crisis; if they are correct you don’t want to miss your opportunity to be part of this historic occurrence.

For more information and to register go to

Friday, February 13, 2009

How Do We Start a New Climate Culture?

As many of you know, we've been promoting participation in Climate Culture which GMU was invited to be a charter member of. It's a site where the Mason community can learn ways to be more sustainable. In participating, we can also win up to $20,000, as well. If you haven't already signed up, you can learn more about it at:

Below is a web log entry I wrote for it. This is the first web log I've ever written and it may be my last as well. I'm not really the kind of person who blogs. Nevertheless, I thought I might weigh in, just this once.

This web log (perhaps my one and only) is dedicated to Colin Bennett, who is awesome.

Many people suggest that as humans are supposed to be the highest form of life on the planet, it is our responsibility to be caretakers of or stewards to it. This incredible burden is ultimately a great folly in the understanding of the role of humanity on Earth.

Without humankind’s influence, the planet would thrive, the natural order of life sustaining itself. Mother Earth does not need humans to manage her. Instead of trying to be stewards of the world, we must learn to recognize that humans do not exist outside of the ecosystem, outside of Nature. In so doing, we learn that the only thing we need to manage is ourselves.

All the damage already done will need some help, but if humans stop creating evermore obstacles for Mother Earth to overcome and, instead, live more harmoniously with the rest of Nature, things could very well work themselves out in the end.

We manage ourselves by managing our behaviors. The actions we take in our lives can have profound effects on ourselves, our friends, our surroundings, and on the world.

Take a moment to pick up a plastic bottle, remove the cap, and recycle it. In that instance, if five people see you do that, and even just one of them changes their behavior for the better of all life (and, yes, recycling one bottle benefits ALL life), then that’s one more person than the moment before.

Sure, the actions we commit to on the Reduction Center on this site might help the university win this contest, but it’s more important that we are helping ourselves, our families, our future children, that starving child in Africa, or the thousands of children living on the streets of Mumbai and elsewhere by putting the Earth and all its denizens above ourselves from time to time.

Seemingly small acts can have far greater consequences (good or bad) than we often realize. A misplaced word could change a child’s perspective about the world around her; an errant cigarette butt could end up in the throat of a sea gull, killing it; and a plastic bottle, discarded unceremoniously on the street, could be picked up by someone who’s life YOU changed when they saw you do the same.

Join the new climate culture.