North Carolina Students are Energized and Organized Post-Power Shift 2011

At UNC-Wilmington, two days after Power Shift 2011, students acted out a mock oil spill cleanup in “hazmat” suits for an offshore drilling protest at Wrightsville Beach.  We also made over 100 phone calls on that same day into our local Congressman’s office to ban offshore drilling and push for wind energy off North Carolina’s coast.

But the energy and action in Wilmington, NC didn’t stop there. This summer, students in UNCW ECO are creating a Green Fee proposal, leading the grassroots movement in the Stop Titan campaign, interning with Greenpeace and Oceana, taking part in the March on Blair Mountain, organizing a statewide retreat for youth environmental leaders and a Hands Across the Sand event, and recruiting 100’s of new freshmen this summer to support or lead campaigns next Fall.

The movement building sessions were key for our group of 60 students from UNCW ECO. New teams and lasting relationships were formed at Power Shift 2011, and our group is more cohesive than ever before. Students who weren’t that involved before Power Shift are now active in core leadership teams and are already starting new initiatives on campus and in our community. Emma Wicker, the newly elected President of ECO said,

“One night, a few days after Power Shift, I walked outside the library and saw a group of students training each other in preparation for our offshore drilling call-in day. It was amazing to see students who weren’t that active before Power Shift really stepping it up and being proactive in learning the skills they need to be effective activists. I was so proud of them and am excited to see what the new leaders in ECO will do this Fall.”

Students in ECO are also involved in our newly formed state network, the NC Student Energy Network (NCSEN).  The NCSEN is holding a retreat in August before school starts for students across the state to begin collaborating on energy and food sustainability issues in North Carolina, while having fun getting to know each other, so we can have a powerful network that organizes effective, united state-wide actions.

The most important result of Power Shift 2011 was the reinforcement of the fact that, we as youth climate activists, must be louder, more visible, and more organized than ever before.  We left Power Shift 2009 feeling empowered by our sheer numbers and we are leaving Power Shift 2011 with the realization that we must do more with our numbers to achieve our goals.

For students who might not have realized the dire consequences of inaction before attending Power Shift 2011, and for students who have been involved in the movement for years and are on autopilot, Power Shift was a wake up call that we all need to do more. We must think and organize differently than we have in the past, acting on a larger and louder scale.  We need to be creative in exposing the injustices imposed upon us by dirty energy corporations and demonstrating opportunities for a clean energy future, and we need to do more than set up recycling programs on our campuses.

Power Shift 2011 was a call to action.  Although we may not know exactly what we need to do to create a livable future, we do know that our current path will NOT get us there, so we have to start making positive changes in our lives, our communities and our world NOW.  We need to prepare ourselves to face risks and organize on the statewide and local levels, so that when the time comes, we can hold nationwide actions that will force our government to put human and ecosystem health before corporate profits.

Brinkley Hutchings is the former president of UNCW ECO and an NWF Power Shift 2011 Fellow.  ECO is the main environmental group at UNCW, comprised of dozens of energetic and friendly allies of the environment.  Working with the Greenpeace Student Network and National Wildlife Federation, ECO is connected with the nation on important campaigns addressing global warming.  They also work with local community groups and the university to improve and protect the environment for generations to come.