Power to the People… and the Environment

Using art to express environmental concerns, raising awareness of socially responsible investment practices, and bringing more social justice speakers to inspire the Goucher community … students picked up a lot of ideas recently at Power Shift, a conference hosted by the Energy Action Coalition and held this year in Pittsburgh. The conference brought together young activists who are focused on ending fracking, creating a clean energy future, and divesting fossil fuels.

Two years ago, the 2011 Power Shift conference actually kick-started the creation of the campus club Goucher Energy Action Revolution (G.E.A.R.), a student-run clean energy action group, said one of the founders, Chelsea Griffin ’14. G.E.A.R. uses educational and community-building events, strategic-action planning, and policy building to engage the Goucher community in sustainable efforts that will allow the college to run on 100 percent renewable energy sources.

“There were four Goucher students total at the conference back then,” she said. “We’ve come a long way since.”

Almost 80 students attended Power Shift this year, loading into two rented coach buses and using their mid-semester break weekend, October 18-20, to join almost 8,000 peers from more than 700 campuses to attend workshops, lectures, and panels to learn how to promote clean energy. Many of the students who attended were from the student body as a whole, not just from G.E.A.R., which has an active membership of around 15.

Even though it was her third Power Shift conference, Chelsea said she was continually encouraged by her peers’ ideas. “Goucher students asked thoughtful, critical questions,” she said. “I was so impressed and happy to be with such a group of people.”

Shannon Finnell ’14 said she was aware of G.E.A.R. and Power Shift and was initially hesitant to sign up to attend the conference, but friends convinced her at the last minute that her interest in social justice aligned with Power Shift’s objectives. The studio art major and peace studies minor attended multiple workshops about social media and art, and she was inspired by how people are communicating about social justice and environmental justice issues.

“When I realized there were other students who were passionate like me at Power Shift, I felt incredibly empowered and motivated,” Shannon said.

Deanna Galer ’17 said her first Power Shift conference was educational. “I went in not knowing much at all about the environment and came out completely inspired to get involved,” said the sociology major, who plans to join G.E.A.R. next semester when her class schedule changes.

Chelsea said the conference equips students with ideas and tools they can bring back to campus. “I really believe in Goucher students, more so than ever, and I can’t wait to see what comes from the empowerment and inspiration from the conference back on campus,” she said. “We’re already seen some great things budding.”

G.E.A.R.’s future plans include working toward investing the college’s finances into more eco-friendly and progressive funds and reinforcing Goucher’s Community Principles (respect, inclusion, communication, service and social justice, and responsibility).

“The energy we felt at Power Shift is now being translated to activities in G.E.A.R., the Roosevelt Institute, Social Justice Committee, and so many more areas on campus,” Deanna said. “To all of our supporters, your investment in us was and will continue to be well worth it!”

Students paid a nominal fee to attend Power Shift and were supported by funding from the Peace Studies Program, the Environmental Studies Program, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the President’s Office, the Green Fund, the Student Government Association, and the Social Justice Committee.

For more information on G.E.A.R., email gearupgoucher@gmail.com or check out Facebook under Goucher Energy Action Revolution. The group currently meets Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m. in Athenaeum 111.

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