Student and youth leaders are coming to Power Shift 2011 from across the country, and they represent a vast array of environmental issues. This blog comes student activist Talya Tavor, a student leader from Michigan State University.
When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. I’ve always had anywhere from one to seven different inhalers on me at any given time. I grew up thinking that everyone had asthma, and was shocked the moment I learned otherwise. It was that moment, the moment I realized that asthma was preventable, that without my neighborhood coal plant myself and others would breathe freely, that I became an activist.
Now I study at Michigan State University where we have the largest on-campus coal plant in the country. We are huge contributors to public health, environmental, social and economic problems (to name a few)—a fact that inevitably fueled my frustration and exacerbated my asthma.
When the Beyond Coal Campaign started up on our campus a year ago, I got involved immediately. At first, the majority of students on campus didn’t even know we had a coal plant. Many students’ understanding of energy ended with putting a plug-in an outlet, never knowing what they were breathing in each day.
A year into our campaign, and after countless hours and days of work, we’ve seen an amazing change in the campus mindset. We’ve had over 5,000 students sign petitions demanding a coal free MSU, and over 170 people from all across Michigan attend a Clean Energy Forum we co-hosted on campus. We’ve also established a strong relationship with the administration in our talks about transition to clean energy.
But with all of these successes, and more, we’ve still been unable to get the administration to make a commitment of moving our campus off of coal to 100% renewable energy. And that’s why I’m here at Power Shift this year.
I’m here because I know that as the future leaders of our nation, it is up to us to empower ourselves in order to create a future we’re proud of. I’m here because I know if anyone were ever able to make a difference, it would be a group of 10,000 passionate, dedicated youths at the largest grassroots organizing training in American history.
I believe we have the power to move forward. Power Shift is just the beginning for us, a launching point to make our movement stronger both at MSU and across the country.
Talya Tavor was born and raised in Illinois, and is now a Junior at Michigan State University. She serves as President of the MSU Sierra Student Coalition with the MSU Beyond Coal Campaign and is a leader in the 286 person Michigan delegation at Power Shift.