Five members of the Western Action Coalition will march through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh with thousands of other college students on Monday, Oct. 21 to protest environmentally damaging practices by banks, corporations and elected officials.
The march will conclude the Power Shift 2013 conference, which will host thousands of climate change activists for three days of panels, workshops, training, speakers and music Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 20.
The Western Action Coalition is a club comprised of Western Washington University students who actively oppose and fight against climate change.
“[Power Shift] is a national conference for youth leaders who are fighting climate change,” said Michelle Dannehy, president of Students for Sustainable Water.
Dannehy will be one of the five Western students attending the conference.
Dannehy, who helped with Western’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign to stop selling plastic water bottles on campus, will be a reference for other participants who want to learn from her experience. She will also benefit from others’ knowledge on how to effectively implement the ban, which has not yet taken effect, she said.
“You have to have strategy, you have to have inspiration and you have to have the right tools and knowledge to get stuff done on college campuses,” senior Cori Dominguez said. “I think this [conference] will give it to us.”
The five members attending the conference will sleep in a church with 50 other participants, Western senior Michael Gosney said.
The conference will feature more than 200 panels and workshops, show documentaries and train students to accomplish their environmental goals. A dozen keynote speakers will address the conference, including Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, and Pittsburgh City Councilmember and Democratic nominee for Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto.
The conference will include larger general training sessions for topics, including how to lobby and how to hold effective meetings, along with more specific tracks on individual campaigns.
A concert will be held each night when the conference is over, featuring artists including Spank Rock, Big K.R.I.T., Ninjasonik, Idle Warship and more.
Pittsburgh has been chosen this year instead of Washington D.C. – the original site of the national conference – because its proximity to the controversy over hydraulic fracking — a potentially harmful method of extracting natural gas from underground, Dannehy said.
The WAC is involved in multiple campaigns in order to curtail the prominence of dirty, non-renewable energy, Dannehy said. The Students for Sustainable Energy club are working on a divestment campaign with the goal of getting Western to stop investing in polluting energy sources such as the oil industry.
Western has rules for guiding investments, including that the university should be socially responsible in its investments, Gosney said.
All members of the coalition agree that oil and coal investments should also be on that list. Divestment is a movement at more than 300 universities, Dannehy said.
In addition to divestment, the coalition works to inform students and community members Gateway Pacific Terminal, Dominguez said.
If built, the terminal at Cherry Point would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, located just north of Bellingham.
The coalition has trained students to register people to vote, and is sending text and email reminders to vote in November’s election, Gosney said.