I just got back from seven days that reminded me why youth are gonna save the world. I had the privilege of helping train and learn from 200 brilliant young organizers in Minneapolis Minnesota at the Energy Action Coalition Power Vote camp.
It was the most fluid and well organized training I had ever been a part of. More striking than the hard organizing skills, the web2.0 tech saavy, the smart message, strategic approach or visionary ideas, was the overwhelming sense of being called to duty.
Over and over again I heard college students telling stories about how something deep inside of them is telling us that our planet – our ecosystems, our economic, and social systems – is on the brink of collapse, and that it’s our generational challenge to steer our society and world back to sanity.
One of the most enduring metaphors of the week was shared by a young organizer: when a caterpillar is about to encase itself in a cocoon it becomes over-consumptive. It eats more than its share of leaves on the tree and grows fat and sluggish. At the moment of its developmental excess, a group of specialized cells called “imaginal cells” gravitate toward one another and find each other. Even though they are in the minority, they flow through the “nutritive soup” that has become of the rest of the caterpillar, and then they steer the caterpillar’s development until it eventually breaks through its cocoon as a butterfly.
I had heard activists of various kinds share this metaphor before. But never had I seen it catch with such resonance as this week. It struck a deep chord with participants, who were grounded in their knowledge that this is our moment and our movement. These young folks are helping usher in a new era of civic engagement with revolutionary ideas like climate justice, clean energy, sustainable communities, economies, and self determination.
The current call-to-action is called Power Vote. The idea is to build a youth voice to hold our leaders accountable by getting 1 million young people to pledge making climate a priority in the presidential election AND afterwards…
That in itself would be a remarkable feat. But we’re not stopping there. With our ‘organizer hats’ on, we see these elections as an opportunity: right now everyone in our country is talking politics. We view the elections not as an end in of themselves, but as a chance to build connections between young progressives across the country to join the youth climate movement and engage in work long after the elections. We’re leveraging our political moment to build lasting power from the ground up, strengthening local organizing across the country where it matters: in our communities.
Many students told me that for the first time, they genuinely feel a part of a movement. The energy was infectious and boundless. Trainers from Wellstone Action!, Energy Action Coalition, EAC Partners (like me!), and the Georgetown Day School Diversity Coordinators, helped set the stage for something beautiful. In particular if you ever get the chance to experience Wellstone Action, it may just change your life. I know it did for so many young visionaries this week.