12,000 Young People Will Rally at U.S. Capitol, Meet With Lawmakers to Press Environmental Agenda

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thousands of young people, many of them emboldened by the 2008 presidential contest, will descend on the Capitol tomorrow to urge the government to take radical action to stem climate change and plant the seeds of a green economy.

Arriving Friday from every state in the union -- as well as every Canadian province and more than a dozen countries -- about 12,000 people, most between 18 and 26 years old, are in the District this weekend for Power Shift '09, a summit aimed at raising environmental awareness and lobbying leaders on green issues.

The four-day convention will culminate tomorrow with a rally at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol's west lawn and meetings all day with members of Congress and their aides to press them for immediate action.

"We want to make sure our new president and new Congress pass bold federal energy and climate legislation in 2009 that dramatically reduces emissions and creates millions of green jobs," said Brianna Cayo Cotter, communications director for the convention's organizer, the Energy Action Coalition, a network of 50 national organizations that advocate for clean energy.

She said leaders "understand that young voters were a key to this 2008 election" and they are now demanding results. "We have come of age as a powerful voting constituency."

Among the hundreds flooding the lobby of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center yesterday -- where Power Shift hosted workshops, panel discussions and musical acts including The Roots -- were Lauralee Crain and Ayesha Siddiqi, students at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. They have been pushing for clean energy in the heart of coal country, which, they said, means they clash with powerful pro-coal interests on campus and off.

They said highlighting the ill effects of strip mining and mountaintop coal removal was among their top priorities.

"We don't have Angelina Jolie and George Clooney posing with these devastated mountains," Siddiqi said. "We're rising to the challenge of climate change ourselves. . . . We're not waiting for the naysayers to catch up."

Kate Villars, a civil engineering student at the University of Virginia interested in environmentally friendly building techniques, attended a workshop about integrating the topic of energy efficiency into educational lesson plans, a step she said would improve her own program.

Andrew Nazdin, 20, a junior at the University of Maryland, said he is looking forward to meeting with House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) tomorrow to ask him to push for "science-based reductions in carbon emissions."

"He's got a room that will fit 75 of us," Nazdin said, "but we're going to bring 600 people and ask for a bigger room."

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