U environmentalists attend conference

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Lauren Wood said she is determined to make a difference in how the United States uses energy and exploits the natural environment.

“Once I realized what was happening, I had a certain sense of hopelessness,” said Wood, a junior in environmental studies who will travel to the student activism Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C. “It’s so much bigger than myself. If I wasn’t putting one foot in front of the other, then there is no point. This is the biggest step that I will take8212;ensuring that when my kids ask me, “What did you do?’ I don’t have a blank stare.”

Wood and more than 30 other students from Utah universities and colleges will travel to the second semi-annual Power Shift conference this weekend to lobby for both a comprehensive energy policy and a socially responsible, sustainable economy.

During the conference, students will learn how to effectively lobby for these issues and then put their fresh skills to work Monday, said Alex Parvaz, a conference attendee and graduate student in environmental studies who is attending the conference

U students have meetings scheduled for Monday with Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, as well as Rep. Jim Matheson’s staff.

After the conference, U students will join other students and environmental activists in a protest march to the coal-fired power plant that provides energy to the U.S. Capitol Building. Some students from the U also plan to trespass on power plant property and risk arrest.

Ashley Anderson, a junior in political science who will attend the conference, said they intend to trespass to garner attention from the news media and lawmakers.

“(The protest is) to illustrate the level of dedication we have,” said Jessi Carrier, a senior in human ecology attending the conference. “It’s a symbolic act that hopefully will translate to concrete change.”

Two-thirds of Utah’s conference attendees are U students. Students said fellow U student activist Tim DeChristopher’s disruptive bid on public lands in Southern Utah was a catalyst that has encouraged many U students to attend the conference. Wood said she hopes to build on this momentum with what she learns at the conference. DeChristopher is speaking at the conference about his act of civil disobedience.

Power Shift, with nearly 10,000 attendees already registered, will provide workshops on lobbying for national and local government officials, inequality and oppression, corporate accountability, green jobs, creating sustainable community services such as bike share programs and environmentally conscious public policy. The first day of the conference will also include a career fair with approximately 75 nonprofit organizations and private companies and 62 graduate programs.

Local community supporters and organizations, such as DeChristopher’s new nonprofit, Peaceful Uprising, have collected more than $1,000 through fundraisers to help the students travel to the conference.

“We all see it as a moral imperative,” said Alecs Barton, a sophomore in environmental studies who is personally funding his trip to the conference.

Students described feeling wronged by previous generations that they believe have wasted the environment through excessive consumption as an impetus for attending the conference and their environmental activism.

Barton said attending this conference will be a step toward reversing that pattern of behavior.

“I felt extreme moral obligation to prove to my elders that we will change. You have to start by leading by example,” he said.

Anderson agreed that taking action is crucial. “We’re no longer afforded that luxury of hopelessness,” he said. “We want to participate in this democracy.”

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