In February, students from all over the Rocky Mountain region attended the University of Montana's first-ever Power Shift Conference, held at the University in Missoula.
Power Shift is about students engaging on climate change and environmental issues, while providing them with skills to help them learn how to be civic leaders in their own communities.
At the conference, students learned about new sustainability initiatives and ways to ensure that their voices are heard by local leaders and politicians. Students also worked to identify opportunities for creating collaborative solutions to climate change across the Northern Rockies' region.
Although this was the first Power Shift Conference ever held in Montana, these conferences have been occurring nationwide since 2007. Many of the student organizers and several of the speakers have attended Power Shift conferences in other parts of the nation, which inspired them to hold a Power Shift Conference at the University of Montana this year.
A Student's Perspective: Interview with Sperry DesRosier
What was one of the best things you learned or experienced at Powershift?
“Well, in looking at my hometown, Powershift gave me good graduate research to focus on. I’m from the Blackfoot Reservation and I want to research the effects of oil and gas fracking in the area. It has a lot to do with water and aquifers too. “
What does Powershift mean for Montana?
“It’s given students more knowledge and skills to use in their own lives but also in advocating against climate change and for local solutions that benefit their individual communities. It was an inspiring conference, and that’s something really important too.”
Keynote Speaker: Interview with Zack PorterWhat is the biggest problem you think Power Shift is trying to address?
“It’s so easy for us young people who care deeply about these issues to feel alone or to feel that even with our student groups or peers who feel similar, that it’s just not enough. What Power Shift does is bring hundreds and in some case thousands of like-minded people together, it’s a support group. Power Shift is as much a rally as it is a conference, which makes it the coolest conference I’ve ever been to. That’s why I’ve gone four times and was happy to be asked to be a keynote speaker.”
“Power Shift lets all of us know that we’re in this together and that we are going to get it done.
What is one of the biggest successes of Powershift?
"The most important thing that comes out of Power Shift is the wealth of positive energy, the optimism, and the determination to go back to their communities and make change happen.
Lead Organizer: Interview with Yaicha Bookhout
What inspired you to organize a huge event like this? Was it your idea?
“The reason I thought about doing this is because I've attended four Powershift conferences before and that was a life changing experience for me and the other students who attended from Montana, so I wanted to bring that experience to as many kids here possible that maybe can’t go to the national conference or all the way over to Oregon.”
What is one of the biggest problems Powershift is trying to address?
“I think that sometimes students feel disempowered when big problems are facing them such as climate change. I wanted students to have the skills and knowledge to create effective change as well. I think a lot of students see what is happening in the world and don’t know how to address it.”
What was one of the biggest successes?
“The biggest success was having a lot of students come up to me after a conference with a feeling that they can do something about climate change or that they met some really interesting people that they can look forward to in the future.”
Students at the University of Montana, Montana State University, and all over the state value the land, water, and wildlife of Montana. These students spend huge amounts of time outdoors: they are hikers, fishermen, hunters, and skiers who are committed to making sure the places they love stay the same in the future. Powershift is just one way students can learn more about how to address our changing climate in Montana.
What other ways are Montanans taking an active role in addressing climate change? Write us and let us know!