“From coal and oil | to wind and sun | this Power Shift | it has begun.” On the last day of Power Shift, marching with hundreds of others along Adelaide’s North Terrace, I quickly handed out our election scorecards to people who had stopped to watch the sight. Power Shift had taken to the streets and, beating drums, chanting, the attendees were making their voices heard. For too long we had stood by while politicians fiddled at the edges and offered us empty rhetoric instead of real steps. In taking action on that day, we built upon all that we’d learned at Power Shift so far and steeled ourselves for the three weeks lying before us – three weeks during which we as young people can act in unison to take Australia forward and reduce pollution.
July 30th was the last day of my life before Power Shift 2010 Adelaide.
In bed that night, I thought back to June 2nd – barely 8 weeks earlier, when Adelaide had hosted a ‘Power Shift Strategy Session’. Attended by almost 20 eager volunteers, the session began a recruitment journey during which every member of the group would challenge themselves, connect with others, and spread a simple message: that Power Shift will give us the tools to build a generation-wide movement to solve the climate crisis.
This post isn’t about the amazing work of all the volunteers in the lead-up to Power Shift 2010 Adelaide though. This post is about the amazing work of all those who made Adelaide’s Power Shift the sensational experience that it was – the participants.
On the morning of Saturday July 31st, I shivered with trepidation as people lined up to register. I handed out Power Shift booklets and chatted with these people about what they were thinking and feeling. Some of these people had heard a talk in their school, or had friends who had talked to them about it. Others had simply got an email or seen a poster, and, perhaps with some hesitation, decided to come along. They were pretty excited, and I was too, as I thought about what lay ahead for us.
Over the next two days, all of us were part of the experience that was Power Shift. I witnessed and heard accounts of registrants experiencing ‘climate moments those flashes of insight in to either the worst of what “climate change” means, or the best of what the future can hold, revealed by the committed people who are doing their utmost to stop the crisis. Scores of young people who have known that the threat of climate change demands a response, who have been yearning to learn how to influence their school, their friends, their politicians, learned things like theories of change, how to communicate climate change, how to engage with voters and how to organise in their communities.
Most importantly, everyone had the chance to take part in a ‘regional break-out’. This part of Power Shift gave people a chance to meet and strategise with people from their own region, coming up with a plan for how to use the upcoming election to achieve better outcomes for the climate. For many, these regional break-outs were an unprecedented step in giving them an opportunity to take what they had heard and learned and to put it in to action. The regional break-outs meant that people didn’t just leave Power Shift with great memories and a recycled-paper booklet. People left Power Shift as members of capable and committed groups, many of them already coming up with plans to take action before the election.
The night before Power Shift, I wasn’t just thrilled by the concept of the next two days. For me, the most inspirational vision was of what the Australian Youth Climate Coalition could be in South Australia in the next few weeks and months. I imagined teams of passionate regional volunteers, in tandem with staff and volunteers across Australia, encouraging people to, when they vote, take responsibility and vote for climate leaders. I imagined these people going back to their schools, faculties, councils and colleges and talking about what they’d learned at Power Shift, engaging others. I imagined these people developing, challenging themselves, and taking on more and more ambitious activities – pushing for the safe climate future we deserve.
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition began in somebody’s imagination, a mere vision of what could be. It now is a reality, of tens of thousands of members, of thousands of volunteers, and it has touched the lives of millions. Similarly, the AYCC SA was once just a dream. It now is a reality, appearing in the media, getting active in communities and, through Power Shift, empowering and mobilising young people from all over the state.
A carbon-neutral Australia, powered by clean, safe sources of power that never run out, populated by healthy, politically-engaged people, serviced by efficient and available public transport, resplendent with biodiversity and natural beauty, prosperous from investment in the technology of the future, is something that, as yet, I can only imagine. For me, Power Shift brought that vision a little bit closer. And in time to come, as we continue to build a generation-wide movement to solve the climate crisis, we can, too, make this vision a reality.
–Joel Dignam is the AYCC’s SA Co-coordinator