“Power Shift” Conference Attracts Thousands to Pittsburgh

October 24, 2013

“In the past, the environmental movement has been upper-middle class, white male. I’m really excited that it’s getting more inclusive” – Erica Thames

In a concerted effort to broaden the diversity of the environmental movement, thousands of environmentalists met in Pittsburg for the “Power Shift” conference, which included some not-so-traditional sessions, such as “Racism and the Climate Movement” and “Sex and Sustainability.” I’ve attended a whole lot of environmental sessions, and I can tell you right now that none have had titles as interesting as “Sex and Sustainability.”

Beyond its eye-catching session titles, Power Shift, organized by the Energy Action Coalition, is another example of a growing consciousness of the need for greater diversity in all forms, including racial diversity, educational diversity, gender diversity, and cultural diversity. Such diversity is essential both for the continuing strength of the environmental movement as well as the achievement of environmental justice throughout the United States and the world.

Aldo Leopold once, rather humorously, wrote, “We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.” Everyone convinced that this safety and prosperity comes from the health of the planet has common ground, and as barriers are broken down such connection becomes easier and easier. The benefits? We have a global community of over 7 billion people. Working together and reaching out will only make our conservation goals that much more attainable.

An ABC News article detailing the 8,000 participant Power Shift conference pointed out that not only is diversity a critical facet of the future of the environment, but minority groups often suffer the ills of poor environmental choices. “There's little debate that minority communities suffer from excessive pollution,” Kevin Bagos writes for ABC News, “A 2012 report from the NAACP found that in areas around the 12 most-polluting coal-fired power plants in the U.S., people of color were about 76 percent of the population.”

Individuals trained at Power Shift can return to their home communities to fight the unfair pollution distribution. In just one example Thames, quoted above in the same article, is working in Los Angeles “on a project to bring rooftop solar panels to her heavily polluted, working-class community, which also suffers from high unemployment.”

Triangle Land Conservancy is continuing its efforts to uphold the goals Power Shift also exemplifies. From supporting urban farming, community gardens, and an agricultural program for Burmese refugees, to operating children’s after school programs and camps, Conservation Cafés, and even singles outings, the Triangle Land Conservancy is determined to reach out to all people in the Triangle, uniting in continuous efforts to build strong connections with the local land.

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