|Thursday, 16 October 2008 00:00|
Blog: Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, Macalester College
So, the Longest Summer Tour kicks off with a balmy and busy day in Chicago!
I'm Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, a would-be-senior at Macalester turned freelance climate activist for the fall, traveling with Will and the rest of the crew on this first leg of their trip. Today is my first and last day on the road with this tour since tomorrow I'm flying out to San Francisco to participate in the Brower Youth Awards (link: http://www.broweryouthawards.org/), which I was recently awarded. Today was a great opportunity to practice motivational speaking with two great groups of college students and network with local leaders in Chicago, both at the non-profit and the student level. I was excited to hear from Abby that they have a line up of youth leaders connected to the national climate movement for the rest of the Tour, including some of my friends from the Sierra Student Coalition for Wisconsin, and the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition for the Michigan sites. It always strikes me how many schools STILL aren't really connected to the national movement and all the amazing work young people are doing to shift this country - glad to know we'll be reaching many more powerful campus groups!
I started my organizing career almost 5 years ago as a high school junior - with little more than an organizing buddy at a neighborhood high school. I've spent the last 3+ years building climate and energy activism from a rising initiative at Macalester College to the scale of the emerging state-wide network of TEAM MN (The Trans-campus Energy Action Movement), and linking a growing base of youth activism in the Midwest to the regional non-profit coalition called REAMP and the Sierra Student Coalition and the broader Energy Action Coalition. Even as I've been focusing on taking our work to scale, I've also been pursuing innovation in sustainability from the campus and community level. I helped found the Clean Energy Revolving Fund, a finance mechanism at Macalester managed by a collaborative board of students faculty, staff, and alumni that invests in campus sustainability projects that create savings or generate revenue and then plow those resources back into the fund. I'm currently working to expand this concept to the community scale through a start-up cooperative called Cooperative Energy Futures. I think youth are central in pioneering the cutting edge partnerships that make it possible to rebuild this economy from the ground up using clean energy and people power. Check out our efforts at: Grand Aspirations.
My role as a speaker in the Longest Summer Tour was to follow Will, Toby, and local administrative/student speakers and tie the speakers comments to a national vision for a clean energy future.
We started the day with a breakfast meeting with the folks at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a high-powered local organization that has been a major leader in Illinois and the REAMP network as a whole. It was great to highlight the way young people are starting to see this movement as the formation of careers and futures rather than just a cool issue. After this we went to hear T. Boone Pickens who seemed to be basing his analysis on massive new reserves of domestic natural gas, which could be diverted from electrical production to be replaced by wind - though he says he has "no opposition to anything American" including coal and nuclear - he just says they're not enough. I generally was fed up with his arguments, which were both inadequately demonstrated at least in the simple presentation, and framed the big issue as dependence on foreign oil, rather than overall peak energy, climate, or sustainable economic development needs.
Next was The University of Chicago event in the afternoon, which meant it conflicted with many student's class schedules, but that was the only time we were able to schedule Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, who joined us for the Forum. With a modest audience, we got quite an exciting event with an impressive list of city and state actions following an impressive list of campus actions. During the lively question and answer discussion, questions ranged from the political stances of the presidential candidates, to alternative mechanisms to cap and trade, to whether capitalism can really solve our. At Northwestern University, we had over 100 students join us for Arctic presentations by both Will and Toby, reflections on Great Lakes impacts and local actions from Melissa Hulting, a local EPA staffer, and local and national actions from a local student rep and myself. Our question and answer session actually went into overtime and got a great response - some of the student leaders at Northwestern plan on staying in touch to collaborate on better organizing.
Two speaking events plus a breakfast meeting with movement partners and some surveying of the T. Boone Pickens strategic landscape in one crazy day - 12 hours of straight action! Great job Will, Toby, Abby, Nicole, Ellie, and Jim for pulling it all off! Keep up the good work as the Longest Summer Tour moves on!