Taking action on energy Stepping up to the challenge and driving a shift in power

The sit-ins were the main dynamo that powered the white movement, galvanizing the little nodes of opposition that had been forming in New York City, in the Boston and San Francisco Bay areas, in Chicago's Hyde Park, in Ann Arbor and

Box 22.1 Growth of the American education enterprise

1940: Federal funding for R&D at US$74 million (agriculture 40 per cent). 1946— 1980s: Federal income formed 5-15 per cent of general academic revenues.

1950-2007: Percentage of Americans with high school degree jumped from 50 to 90 per cent.

Percentage with a bachelor degree jumped from 5 per cent to more than 25 per cent. US population doubled, from about 150 million to about 300 million.

1946-1991: In constant dollars college and university budgets increased by factor of 20. Physical plants increased by factor of 6. Average faculty compensation increased by factor of 2.5. Annual number of degrees increased factor of 9.

1951 —1961: National Science Foundation budget rose from US$100,000 to US$100 million.

1961: 85 per cent of US$100 million went to universities and university research institutes.

1954—1997: Universities share of total federal expenditures for R&D rose from 5—22 per cent.

1968: 10 universities got 28 per cent of federal obligations for R&D.

1990: 10 universities got 24 per cent; 50 universities got 64 per cent.

1997: 50 largest recipients currently get US$60—500 million.

1997: 95 per cent of federal R&D goes to 10 per cent of four-year colleges/

universities.

Sources: Lewontin (1997); http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d02/tables/dt343.asp; dt346.asp; dt345.asp; population figures from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ United_States.

Madison — wherever the booming universities, thick with students... Without the civil rights movement... [y]outh culture might have remained... the transitional subculture of the young... had it not been for the revolt of black youth, disrupting the American celebration in ways no one had imagined possible. (Todd Gitlin)

You know, you see these bums, you know, blowin up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they are, burnin up the books, I mean, stormin around about this issue, I mean, you name it — get rid of the war, there'll be another one. (Richard Nixon, The New York Times, 2 May 1970)

From the beginning of World War II to 1960, American colleges and universities were uncharacteristically calm and disruptions were rare. By the late 1950s, however, a growing Civil Rights Movement began to spark campus activity. In February 1960, four African-American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat in at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. These sit-ins and other civil rights activities spread, arousing the nation's consciousness and leading many students to take nonviolent direct action to express their support for civil rights (Carnegie Corporation, 1970).

A decade later, this activity had grown to encompass the peace and environmental movements as well. On 30 April 1970, President Nixon announced that American and South Vietnamese forces were moving against enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia. From 30 April-5 May, 20 new student strikes began each day, culminating with the infamous strike at Kent State where 4 students were killed. From 5-10 May, students launched 100 or more strikes each day. By May 10, 448 campuses were either still affected by some sort of strike or completely closed down. By the end of May, nearly one third of the 2500 US colleges and universities had experienced protest activity (Carnegie Corporation, 1970).

Since then, students have adapted this method of campus activism to address a large array of social issues, mounting successful campaigns to push this country towards increased guarantees of civil and human rights, environmental protection and an end to Apartheid and sweatshop labor. These campaigns have changed the practices of campuses, businesses and governments at the city, state, federal and global levels, and have empowered a new generation of rebellious, energetic, national and global leaders.

More recently, the leading student, youth and environmental groups from the US and Canada have come together to form Energy Action, a diverse, inspiring coalition dedicated to forcing this generation to address the impending climate crisis. In 2005, the Energy Action coalition launched its first project - the Campus Climate Challenge. The Challenge leverages the power of young people to organize on college campuses and high schools across Canada and the US to win 100 per cent clean energy policies at their schools. The Challenge is growing a generation-wide movement to stop global warming, by reducing the pollution from our high schools and colleges down to zero, and leading our society to a clean energy future.

In 2007, during the Climate Challenge's Week of Action, coalition groups flexed their collective muscles, organizing 50,000 students on 587 campuses in 49 states and 8 Canadian provinces and territories.5 Students and campuses were also a central part of Step It Up,6 a national mobilization with more than 1400 local actions from the most iconic places in the US calling for an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (see Table 22.1).

There is also evidence that today's youth are willing to follow in the footsteps of their more radical activist predecessors to engage in nonviolent, direct action. In

Table 22.1 Energy Action's week of action by the numbers Number Action

50,000 Students and youth involved in Climate Week activities worldwide

587 Campuses that took action

49 of 50 US states where actions took place

8 of 12 Canadian provinces and territories where actions took place

30 Organizations that provided direct support and outreach for the actions

71 Print, television, radio and online media hits reported

14 National media hits: Bloomberg, Washington Post, USA Today, The Associated Press, The

Huffington Post

March 2007, several student activists joined local parents to sit in at the Governor of West Virginia's office to protest the siting of a new coal plant near Marsh Fork Elementary School. The result:

[E]leven parents, community leaders and student activists were arrested today while sitting in at the office of West Virginia Governor Joe Mancin. Their sit-in was spurred by a recent decision by the State Mine Board to approve a second coal silo near Marsh Fork Elementary School. Protesters were treated roughly and dragged through puddles of mud. About 40 protesters remain in the governor's office. Marsh Fork Elementary located near Sundial, WV currently sits 225feet from a coal silo. Residents say Governor Joe Manchin is shirking his responsibility for the health and safety of the students.7

In an example of how the Internet has transformed modern activism, a clip of students being dragged out of the Governor's office was posted on Youtube the following day.8

In October 2007, Energy Action will continue its evolution by bringing together 3000 students and youth in Washington DC to participate in Power Shift '07 — a launching point for the youth climate movement to take center stage. Attendees will meet with their representatives to try to influence Congress to pass a plan to cut CO emissions. Powershift also hopes to strengthen and diversify the grassroots climate movement to push for national and local change.9

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment