Fairleigh Dickinson was well represented. Edison Wetlands photo.
by Dana Patterson and David Wheeler
“Stop the pollution, be the solution!” was the rallying cry of a crowd of 12,000-plus young leaders last weekend at Power Shift ’09, a historic national summit in Washington, D.C.
More than 200 students and recent alumni from New Jersey schools took part in the four-day event, representing Fairleigh Dickinson University, Drew University, Stockton College, Ramapo College, Princeton, Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, Rider and others.
“I so desperately want you all to be nothing short of remarkable, and I need you to be ambassadors of a really simple and very important idea,” Majora Carter, the founder of Sustainable South Bronx, told the crowd. “That when we treat people equally with regard to the local environment, the global environment will benefit also.”
Organized by the Energy Action Coalition, Power Shift aimed to galvanize future environmental leaders with panels, workshops, field trips and a roster of speakers that included EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
The “Toxic Tour of D.C.” included a 1.5-mile walk past two active coal power plants and a visit to the Earth Conservation Corps, a nonprofit organization that engages Washington’s urban youth in the restoration of the Anacostia River. A boat ride down the river showed young environmentalists one of the most polluted rivers in the nation, one that poses a physical barrier to environmental justice in our nation’s capital.
The event ended Monday, and New Jersey’s representatives took the lessons home. Realizing that environmental networking between the colleges and universities was lacking, they created a Facebook group to connect environmental leaders from campuses throughout the Garden State.
They have begun to draft a comprehensive strategic plan for greening the state’s college campuses. This student-driven report seeks to address all aspects of sustainability, including energy use, waste disposal, recycling, development, energy sources, food and transportation.
“We need to reach out to one another to help spread environmental education, lobbying, and campus-wide initiatives with other colleges working together in New Jersey,” said Danielle Odom, the former vice president of Fairleigh Dickinson’s Green Club. “Our passions must continue to energize this movement and each other.”
Power Shift ended with more than 5,000 of the participants gathering on Capitol Hill to demand clean energy, making it one of the largest rallies in the recent history of the environmental movement. The group chanted “Green Jobs Now!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” before marching through the halls of Congress to meet with their state representatives in a push for new, effective climate legislation. New Jersey participants scheduled meetings with Sen. Robert Menendez and nine congressmen.
The state’s young leaders appear to have the rebuilding underway. For information on getting involved, e-mail dpatt29 [at] gmail.com.