Students will address environmental issues at the Capitol

A team of 60 USF students will join 10,000 people from across the nation in Washington, D.C., to present a unified voice on climate and energy issues as part of Power Shift ’09.

The event will provide youth the opportunity to lobby representatives from Feb. 27 to March 2, with the goal of approaching the new administration within its first 100 days.

“Historically, (the first 100 days) is when you need to get your issues known because policy is being crafted around the issues that are important to the voting population,” said Mandy Hancock, the Florida campus organizer for Southern Energy Network — an organization that facilitates student and youth-led movements in the Southeast for a clean and sustainable future.

The USF team has the most attendees of any college in Florida and is tied with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for having the 10th-largest college team in the nation, Hancock said.

She said some issues they will address at the event are stopping the funding of high-risk energies, like coal and nuclear, and increasing investment into renewable technologies, such as wind and solar power.

“The climate policy has been so disjointed on the national and global level,” said Lyndsey Scofield, a senior majoring in environmental science and policy, who will attend the event. Scofield helped coordinate the USF team for Power Shift ‘09.

“Now we’re coming together as a nation, and (learning) even internationally people are coming to (Power Shift ‘09),” she said. “We’re working together to solve these problems and I think that’s a huge benefit to us all.”

On the first day, participants will attend a job fair sponsored by, an organization that aims to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, Hancock said.

Participants will also attend workshops and learn the science behind climate change and renewable technology, how to build strong campaigns and how to lobby representatives, she said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Van Jones, the founder and president of Green for All, John Podesta, the president and CEO of American Progress, and many others will speak to attendees.

During the final day of Power Shift ‘09, participants will have an opportunity to directly address Congress about climate issues.

USF participants include members of the Student Environmental Association, (SEA), Students for Social Justice, Anthropology Club and the Alliance of Concerned Students, Scofield said.

Power Shift ‘09 USF team member William Hood, a senior majoring in geography, said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“When have we ever actually had the chance to truly talk to senators and try to make a difference?” Hood said. “(Florida) lives primarily off of coal and nuclear (energy) — I think that we really need to step it up and encourage Congress to go to the other direction.”

Shawna Feinman, a sophomore majoring in environmental science and policy who will attend Power Shift ’09, said the event will show what the youth of the nation really want in climate and energy legislation.

“(The youth) is such a large body, yet we hardly ever get to voice our opinions,” Feinman said. “This is a movement where it’s solely the youth of the nation (speaking). We’re the future generation. We’re the ones that this affects.”

USF students can still register to attend Power Shift ‘09 with the USF team. The cost to attend the conference is $75.