While other students spent their weekend at VEISHEA, 19 ISU students headed to Power Shift, a nationwide, green energy conference in Washington, D.C.

Students from across the country arrived for the four-day conference, and attended panels and workshops to teach students about activism and clean energy.

Throughout the conference, keynote speakers came to address students about various environmental issues plaguing our planet, including former Vice President Al Gore, environmental and civil rights activist Van Jones, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, and 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben.

Gore and McKibben stressed the urgency of the climate change threat, stating the year 2010 as being the hottest so far on record.

"Last year 2010, was the hottest year ever recorded in the instrumental record statistically tied with 2005, 9 of the 10 hottest years have been in the last 12 years," Gore said.

McKibben said science is the easy part of this — grim, but easy — 2010 was the warmest year on record, reaching a high temperature of 129 degrees in Pakistan.

That kind of heat melts the arctic, caused droughts so deep across Russia that the Kremlin stopped all grain exports, and caused 4 million people in Pakistan to be homeless due to flooding, McKibben said.

Jones said the United States is powering a civilization on death itself that's both detrimental to our health and the environment, because the fuels we are using are from dead organisms. That is why coal, oil and natural gas are all called "fossil fuels."

"We burn death in our power plants without ceremony, and then we act shocked when having pulled death out of the ground and burned it," Jones said. "We acted shocked when we get death from the skies in form of all the warming and death on our oceans in form of oil spills, and death in our choked lungs in the form of asthma and cancer. Let's stop fueling our society based on death and destruction."

To phase fossil fuels out of the world's culture, economy and environment, Jackson sees the answer within the students, students who gathered from all over the country to Power Shift.

"Our first line of defense is you: young people who are organized and active," Jackson said. "The young people who came together this weekend for one of the largest grassroots training ever held, the young people since the first earth day 40 years ago, have always been the leading voices for environmental protection in our nation."

This generation is bigger than the Baby Boomers, it's more diverse, ecologically conscious and technologically savvy, Jones said.

"Each and every one of you is a walking technological superpower, what will happen in America when you stop using these devices as toys and start using them as tools to change America," Jones said.

Gore stressed the potential of solar and wind energy, growing to become more and more competitive with other forms of electric generation.

"Photovoltaic solar energy is just a couple of years away from being competitive with the average prices that's charged for electricity that is on the grid right now," Gore said. "For each of the last three years, wind power has been the largest source of new electricity generation in this country."

Despite the uprising of cleaner forms of energy, and the gathering of students for the conference, the EPA is struggling more than ever against defunding, Jackson said. 

The attacks being aimed at EPA aren't going to be just felt by EPA; when you attack the EPA, the effect will be to American people, Jackson said.

"The American people are counting on you to stand up for their health," Jackson said. "Pollutants like mercury, smog and pseudo-neurotoxins and killers that cause developmental problems, asthma and heart attacks."

The American people are counting on you to stand up for their jobs because poison in the ground means poison in the economy, a weak environment means a weak consumer base and unhealthy air means unhealthy atmosphere for investments."

With the major concerns in regards to air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, Gore urges the idea of carbon taxes as alternative.

"If something is out of sight, it's out of mind, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless, and if it has no price tag, it's going to be routinely ignored," Gore said.

McKibben said the problem also lies within the Chamber of Commerce, reputable as one of the largest dirty money spenders.

"The Koch brothers are high peaks of corruption but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the Everest of dirty money, it boasts on its webpage that it is the biggest lobby in Washington," he said. "It spent more money on politics last year than the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee combined, and 94 percent of that went to climate deniers."

McKibben urged students to fight "non-violently, but with civil disobedience," unified with one solid voice.

"We have to fight without any guarantee that we're going to win, we have waited late to get started and our adversaries are strong and we do not know how these are going to come out," McKibben said. "The only thing that a morally awake person can do is when the worst thing that ever happened is happening is to try and change those odds."

Inspired by the variety of keynote speakers' passionate voices, thousands of students proceeded to fill the streets of Washington, D.C., in one unified protest. Students stood up against large fossil fuel corporations such as BP Oil and GenOn, to address their desire for change.

For students such as Qiaolin Huang, graduate in political science, the protest was the highlight of the trip, reminding her of an important social movement that took place at Tiananmen Square. That protest consisted of college students demanding for democracy and freedom of speech.

"The college students in Beijing got together and marched around Tiananmen Square, they wanted to have democracy, they wanted to have freedom of speech," Huang said. "Because they did [this protest] it compromised the government, it turned out the police force; the soldiers and tanks killed many students for that social movement."

"After that, the government has been very careful about protests and if there is any protest, before people take action to do it, if the government hears about it, they'll try to keep people quiet and control it."

"There is not many protests here in China because we can't do it, when I was there with the American college students and we were asking for environmental protection. I was so moved a couple moments, I was thinking if one day we could do the same thing in China, that would be the best thing ever in my life."

Lyndsey Batz, junior in integrated studio arts, was also impressed by the movement of student protesters.

"The rally was incredible, I really couldn't of expected what actually happened," Batz said. "It was not just a number that came, that was massive in of itself. The actual rally was inspiring, everyone had so much energy and that energy and I found myself way more involved than I thought I was going to be."

ISU students left the conference motivated to continue practicing green, active initiatives.

"I didn't know what exactly we can do in real life, in the conference, I talked to people and I learned about so many things that they are already doing and a lot of things that we can do right now," Huang said. "We can influence all our friends and family who are around us, we can influence people to join us."

For Batz, it was a real eye-opener for alternative forms of energy.

"I was somewhat interested in alternative energy; however I didn't know much about it and after going to some of the panels and talking to people that were at the convention," Batz said. "I realized how interesting alternative energy is and that's where I want to put myself best and letting people know about alternative energy."

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