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Powershift Young and Rising 2019


“Powershift Young and Rising” was a gathering of more than 400 young people across Canada to build a movement, skillshare and take action on climate. I have always been interested in gaining knowledge about creating social progress to combat climate change. In 2014 I graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Engineering, a minor in Plant Sciences, and a Certificate of Environmental Citizenship. From 2015 to 2018 I lived in BC, including Penticton, and completed a year of Environmental Protection Technology at KPU in Langley. I currently live in Kitchener, Ontario.


I attended “Powershift 2019”, a youth summit held in Ottawa, February 14 to 18th. Hundreds of people showed up from all over Canada and the United States. The conference had six themes: Indigenous Perspectives; Storytelling, Digital & Media; Organizing and Mobilizing; Intersectional Movement Building; Non-violent Direct Action; and Art & Resistance. There were keynote speakers on Friday and Saturday evening and socialist Hip-hop artist Mohammed Ali performed on Saturday night.


The workshops, run by various non-profit organizations, were highly interactive, with most people participating in lively discussions. My favourite two workshops were, ‘We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Chains – Anti-Capitalism & Climate Justice,’ and ‘Freedom to Move, Return, Stay: Migration & Climate Justice,’ both of which were in the Intersectional Movement Building category. There were educational classes on Non-Violent Direct Action included blockade and climbing instruction, and an open art area with silk-screening and painting to make banners and flags for the Monday rally outside Parliament Hill.


While I was not able to stay for the rally, photos show the success of the effort and coordination of the different non-profit groups coming together to educate and create ambassadors of environmental sustainability, conservation, social justice and equality. The main messages I received through the workshops I attended were that capitalistic societies are not equal for all citizens and are not sustainable: they require continuous growth, profit, output and consumption, in order to grow and thrive.


Climate change is a social issue. There are huge discrepancies in equality, both in Canada and globally, that contribute to climate degradation. People have pressing needs that take precedence over the global climate crisis, as people work to get by--all due to capitalism. We can each aid progress towards an equal society by starting conversations within our communities and networks. For example, 3.5% of the population mobilized and active in a campaign--is all that is needed to make change happen. Advocating for social equality and for the global environment is an important role as an individual.


Written By Isabelle Wirz.


From Wikipedia: Power Shift Network is a North American non-profit organization made up of youth-led social and environmental justice organizations working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement. It runs campaigns in the United States and Canada to build grassroots power and advocate for tangible changes on climate change and social justice at local, state, national and international levels. The Power Shift Network's members, which include other non-profit organizations and student groups, focus their organizing and campaigns on campuses, communities, corporate practices, and politics. The Power Shift Network is part of the Global Youth Climate Movement.

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© 2020 First Things First Okanagan

First Things First Okanagan is a non-profit society encouraging the public and all levels of government to take actions to halt climate change.