So if you hadn’t heard, Power Shift Regional Summits have been happening all over the country (check out the map for a summit in your area). This weekend, Power Shift Pennsylvania pulled off our own summit at Penn State University.

While I hope to submit additional posts on the overall turnout, content of each panel and activists work around the first week of Senate hearings on the Kerry-Boxer bill, I want to start with the discussion that I found most interesting–the panel I facilitated on How Coal & Natural Gas Disrupt Communities and Degrade the Environment.

Presenting were Andrew Munn, from the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Jay Sweeny and Brady Russell from Clean Water Action (CWA), Stephanie Simmons from both CWA and the Sierra Club, and Raina Rippel from the Center for Coalfield Justice and the newly formed Alliance for a Coal-Free Generation.

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Andrew has been working and living in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia, working with communities affected by Mountaintop Removal. Jay and Brady have been working with communities affected by Natural Gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, along with Stephanie. And Raina has been doing some amazing organizing against Longwall Mining in her community.

Each panelist gave a rundown of each of these practices–Longwall Mining, Mountain Top Removal and Natural Gas drilling. The one I knew least about was the practice of hydro-fracturing and its impacts on Pennsylvanian communities. (Oddly enough, my home newspaper just recently ran a story on the dangers of this practice, so please reference that news article, and here and here, for more information.)

They touched on how campuses and communities who are not directly affected by these problems can act in solidarity and contribute to ending these dangerous practices. Stephanie Simmons highlighted the importance of organic, grassroots organizing in leading to real, positive and long-term solutions to these problems as well as empowering communities to successfully confront the corporate mammoths that so often attempt to silence their communities. We also talked about the role of the State Department of Environmental Protections in re-enabling Environmental Impact Statements and government structures that people can count on to protect them, their natural resources and the future of their communities.

While at first glance, No Coal and No Natural Gas campaigns might seem a contradiction, they are actually fighting for the same thing. Both movements face similar problems within their communities.  Both have identified identical visions for our future. Their strongest point of commonality is the power being created within affected communities.

As facilitator, I brought it back to Copenhagen and the work being done by communities across the globe (see 350.org) to hold our individual leaders and global power structures accountable for a serious new global climate agreement.

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Our diverse movements must compliment one another.  Each campaign must enable and amplify the voice of the other if we are to effectively communicate to our decision-makers that we are not going to sit back any longer. That the effects of Climate Change and environmental degradation are affecting not only women in developing countries, but mothers in the rural counties in Pennsylvania as well. The link? Corrupt or defunct government agencies and corporations that see surrounding communities as nothing more than expendable.

Come December, let’s make something happen. Let’s get Obama to Copenhagen. Let’s pass a strong, just and equitable climate bill through the House and Senate that gives % 5 in Adaptation Aid. Let’s move our campuses beyond Coal. And let’s save our future, our lives and our planet, by finally listening to the science and to the communities that are being affected by Climate Change NOW.

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