By Sommer Saadi
Green Right Now

The chanting will start softly.

Thousands of young people wearing green hard hats and carrying green placards and homemade banners will converge on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It will be the final day of the five-day Power Shift 2009 national youth summit, and the expected 10,000 young activists participating will voice their opinions on what they feel is the defining challenge of their time: solving the climate crisis.

As the diverse group of activists unites over climate change concerns and goals for energy legislation, the chanting will grow louder.

“There is a lot on our plate that we’re demanding,” explains Jessy Tolkan, executive director of Energy Action Coalition, the coalition of environmental organizations behind Power Shift 2009. “But we feel like we’re entitled to have all those demands met and it’s our responsibility to bring those demands to Capitol Hill.”

Power Shift 2009, from Feb. 27 to March 1, is the Energy Action Coalition’s method of doing just that, bringing young activists from every corner of the country to meet with power brokers in D.C. and agitate for a green agenda. The coalition’s overarching concern is global warming, and to that end, members want national leaders to support green jobs, renewable energy, cleaner cars and reductions in industrial carbon emissions through cap-and-trade laws.

Their numbers, let alone their energy, should attract attention.

In short order, the EAC has developed considerable grassroots reach. It is made up of 50 environmental and social justice organizations, more than 700 local groups and tens of thousands of young people. Ten central staff members and 70 employees in partner organizations spread across the nation keep the movement mobilized and members united around a common set of goals.

The 2009 summit will be the group’s second (the first was in November 2007). The gathering at the Washington Walter Convention Center will feature workshops and lectures on many topics, including “Climate Legislation”, “Advocating for Green Jobs”, and “How To Get the Average Student to Care About Global Warming”.

Event coordinators hope to bring back some speakers from Power Shift 2007, such as green jobs guru Van Jones and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, among other invitees.

On March 2, the summit will end with a national rally and lobby day when participants will flood the halls of Congress and speak with political leaders.

“Power Shift 2007 dramatically changed the conversation in Washington,” says Praween Dayanada, 25, a field organizer for the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program and an EAC member group based in Austin. (Dayanada, pictured, fourth from right.)

“And now the urgency and timing of Power Shift 2009 will lead to its success.”

Dayanada has been working on recruiting 150 Texans to attend the summit and currently has more than 70 registered.