By Soliman Aït Maamar | 18 November 2011
Powershift is organised annually by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, an organisation bringing together young people seeking to make a real impact on Australia’s (and the world’s) effort to abate our greenhouse emissions and help their communities to work with, not against, nature. This year’s event in Brisbane from 15 to 17 October attracted 1000 young Australians people eager to exchange ideas and learn more about climate change and leadership. Soliman, 15, is a student of Friends’ School recently arrived with his family to live for 3 years in Hobart.
I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. Three months ago I was living in Belgium, I only knew that Australia was the biggest part of Oceania and didn’t know a thing about Bill Mc Kibben or Greg Combet.
Through various connections, I came to meet Oliver Lovell, the coordinator of Powershift in Tasmania, and got this fantastic opportunity: three days in Brisbane to meet like-minded folks and renowned speakers, hear about climate change and how best to take action.
Oliver provided us with the perfect preparation for the Powershift meeting. He invited Dr Stuart Corney, a climate modeler at UTAS to talk in depth about climate change, and economist Phil Harrington from pitt&sherry was kind enough to explain the details about the carbon tax to the group. The cherry on the cake was a 45 minute meeting with Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change, that the group managed to secure while Combet was visiting Hobart.
But when I took the plane from Hobart with 11 other enthusiastic Tasmanian students, I really didn’t know what to expect.
It turned out to be an intense three days: exciting, inspiring, entertaining event! We got several talks from great speakers interspersed with workshops and regional break-out groups. The last day, we even danced on King George Square and immortalized it in this inspiring video!
My preferred speakers were:
John Cook: John Cook is founder of the world-leading climate information website, Skeptical Science, and a 2011 Eureka Prize winner. I particularly enjoyed his lecture about the climate science. John’s aim is to debunk, through Skeptical Science, all the myths developed by those opposing climate action. John’s presentation was instructive, entertaining and right to the point. This laid the scientific foundation of the event. Example: global warming is caused by the sun. The short answer in fact is that over the last 30 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. Sun and climate are going in opposite directions. This has led a number of scientists to conclude independently from each other that the sun cannot be the cause of recent global warming. So climate change is a fact. Global warming is happening. What can we do about it?
James Bramwell offered us some food for thought. He is the Public Engagement Director at Beyond Zero Emissions. He taught us all different techniques already commercially available to enable Australia to reach zero CO2 emissions within 10 years. This is where I first heard about solar thermal electricity generation: the sunlight is reflected by curve mirrors to warm a liquid (which can be water) to get steam and then produce amongst others electricity.
Bill McKibben is the inspiring, visionary founder of the global action movement, 350.org. He brought us the bigger picture, outlining the current consequences of climate change in the world: droughts in Pakistan, flooding in North-East America. He insisted on us having an impact on our local community. We have to use our passion and our concern about our future to make changes and quickly.
Because of time constraints I could only attend four workshops (which was a pity because the program was very interesting). I took part in:
1 Prosperity without growth led by Dick Smith and Prof. Ian Lowe (Australian Conservation Foundation), advocating the shift of our consumption model to a more sustainable economy and told us some interesting facts like • 2 sunny summer days of solar energy displayed on the surface of Australia equals world energy consumption for a year, and • cutting 5% off the global military budget would give a decent income to every human being
2 Communicating climate change (limited to 20 people)
3 Secrets of the Obama campaign (limited to 150 people). This session taught us the basics of how public narrative works: values, emotion and story structure. At the end, we had to write our own story in a compelling manner.
4 Barriers to social change (limited to 20 people), focusing mainly on how to overcome communication problems to motivate people to change.
This was a great experience from a social point of view as well. In those three days, our group of 12 Hobartians really got to know each other much better, not just in the conference itself but also in our leisure activities (shopping, cooking, sight-seeing, commuting). There was a real solidarity between us, and at the end of the conference we left with the feeling that we’d be doing a lot more together in days, months and perhaps years to come.
Oliver Lovell: “It was great to see such a large Tassie contingent there I think that we really have the power to make some big changes happen in Tassie and make Tassie an Australian leader.”
Jack Redpath: “I’m really excited to turn the things we learned at Powershift into actual change in my state. I’m also looking forward to working with my amazing powershift companions and other like minded community members!”
Jo Thompson: “There has been a big hole in Hobart’s youth until now, with anyone being forgiven for thinking that climate change wasn’t an issue for young people. Powershift will no doubt see the end of that perception, as more and more people find a means to do something about the future they’ll inherit.”
Elizabeth Carin: “For me it just illustrated how widespread the movement is across Australia. It was reassuring to meet and network with people who are as passionate about the issue as I am. I think that youth, if united, has the capabilities and enthusiasm to bring about a powerful change.”
Edward Croger: “There was a real shift that occurred within the Tassie Powershift group. The group has come away empowered, sincerely determined transform our shared learning experiences into action. I have no doubt that this group will lead the youth in Tasmania, facing the defining challenge of our generation.”
Lauren Burke: “I found it very inspiring and encouraging to meet so many people who are trying to create solutions to climate change and who have come together to learn the skills they need to take action in their local communities. I’m certainly really excited about working with the Tassie group to create change in our community!”
Patrick Neasey: “Power Shift changed the way I think about approaching the problems that face us. I learned a lot from the speakers and workshops, and this group of Tasmanians really came together with a new sense of excitement, keen to keep the movement going here. I’m now more confident in my abilities to communicate the issues and solutions.”