Shifting the Power

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From October 4-7th, hundreds of activists hailing from across Canada met in Victoria, British Columbia. They were united as part of the grassroots PowerShift movement, although it marked the first time a PowerShift event was organized in BC. The activists were highlighted by the likes of David Suzuki, Maude Barlow, and Cameron Fenton—people whose names frequently perpetuate the headlines of issues-based newsletters and campaigns.

In addition to these seasoned activists, many people wanting to learn more about subjects such as the fate of BC’s environment, indigenous rights, fossil-fuel divestment, and the role of women in activism banded together—pushed into action by the recognition that a paradigm-shift is crucial to the sustainability of future generations. Universities and high schools from across the province formed delegations of representatives to send to the conference, which featured dozens of educational and skills-based workshops.

These workshops were many and varied; ranging from Facilitation 101, Investigative Journalism 101, and Decolonization 101 to Online Campaigning and Fundraising, and High School Organizing for Climate Action. The SMUS Leadership Program sent a delegation of curious, open-minded, and tenacious students to PowerShift — where they attended panels, workshops, Q&A sessions and keynote speeches from dawn until dusk. One student described her experiences as overwhelming, but in a good way: “I feel like a sponge. There’s so much valuable information that I’m absorbing… I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a second brain to keep track of it all.”

One of the overarching messages of the student-run conference was the importance of youth involvement and awareness of issues that would ultimately affect Generation Y—or those born from 1980 to the early 2000s. The importance of sustainability — leading a lifestyle sensitive to the needs of future generations — was also stressed. The conference itself has run its course, but there is now an organized network of “PowerShifters” spanning across the country, who are committed to taking action within their own communities.

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