This past weekend, 10,000 climate activists gathered in Washington, D.C. But CNN, Fox News, and The Washington Post apparently didn't notice.
Today marks the final day of Power Shift 2011, a massive gathering in the nation's capital of about 10,000 young climate activists. Earlier today, we posted 350.org founder Bill McKibben's keynote speech from Saturday night. Other notable speakers included Van Jones, Al Gore, EPA chief Lisa Jackson, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
What really distinguishes Power Shift from a "mere" activist rally is how the four-day event focuses on training young activists to make a political difference. Yes, there are the inspiring speeches, but—more importantly, in my opinion—there are also movement-building breakout sessions, Lobbying 101 lessons, and other practical training activities.
Today, thousands of young activists took to the streets for a "polluter protest," taking their signs and chants to three symbolic hubs of the entrenched dirty energy economy. These sites were, as 350.org's Jamie Henn explained, "the US Chamber of Commerce, who poisons politics, BP, who poisoned the Gulf, and Gen-On, who poisons the lungs of DC residents with their dirty coal fired power plant."
But the mainstream media ignored the event. Throughout the weekend, I periodically fired up CNN.com and other mainstream sites, and never saw mention of Power Shift. Even today, CNN.com is highlighting a citizen journalism iReport of a Tea Party rally on Saturday with an attendance of, at most, 6,500 in Wisconsin. Somehow that gets featured, but a weekend-long event with thousands more participants in the nation's capital is totally ignored? To be fair, the New York Times did run a good piece today (which was technically produced by ClimateWire). No mention at all in the Washington Post, though. Not even in the "local" section, because, hey, tens of thousands of people parade through the capital's streets every week. Fox News didn't cover Power Shift either, though it was happy to devote airtime to the March 31st Tea Party rally on the National Mall even though only a few dozen people showed up.
I understand that nobody ever wants to think or hear about climate change—it's the ultimate bummer, and most people just want someone else to solve the problem. But climate change will not be effectively addressed unless everyone who even faintly understands the problem is acting to advance the cause. It's irresponsible for the media to be ignoring the issue—and events like Power Shift—and it's immoral for anyone who is committed to a just, fair, safe, and peaceful world to pay it simple lip service and then slink away when any actual commitment of energy or action is required.
Two years ago, in the wake of Power Shift 2009, I wrote that "the kids are alright," and that the youth climate movement was robust and diverse and strong and growing more influential. That's still the case. Unfortunately, those of us with a few more years still haven't learned from the youth.
All photos from Energy Action Coalition on Flickr.