On the second weekend of July 2009, unsuspecting tourists strolling along Sydney Harbour were offered a unique addition to their sight-seeing inventory. In the shadow of the Sydney Opera House, a group of enthusiastic young environmentalists were spreading their message of sustainability and awareness, through the most powerful medium they knew: dance.
Challenging themselves to find innovative and creative means of advocating action on the issue of climate change, the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition initiated a wide range of activities - dance included - as part of their highly successful Power Shift event.
What is Power Shift?
Between 11 and 13 July 2009 some 1200 young people congregated at the University of Western Sydney in Parramatta to take part in Power Shift, a summit on an ambitious scale, youth-oriented or otherwise.
Organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (new window), the event aimed to educate young minds about the pressing concerns of global warming and train them for widespread ambassadorial duties - returning to their respective communities and continuing the sustainability debate beyond the lecture hall.
Timothy Hall, AYCC member and attendee at Power Shift 2009, believes the event was a resounding success. It achieved its principal aims of increasing awareness and empowering young people so that they can speak out on climate change.
"The aims of Power Shift were very much about getting the message to people," explains Tim, adding, "and we wanted to show that youth aren't radicals and try and engage the community."
Primarily, the objective of Power Shift was to supply all those who attended with a wealth of information so that they are well equipped to further increase awareness in their immediate communities.
In order to do this, a number of leading climate change campaigners and governmental figures offered their perspectives on the issue so that attendees could grasp the complexity and wide-ranging effect of environmental reform.
"It was definitely a main aim, to provide a diversity of views," concedes Tim, who believes the tendency to adopt a dismissive attitude towards governmental efforts can often be a means of shifting the blame.
"The general view was that the government does need to be taking it a bit further, but also that young people need to push for what they want."
In addition to media attention and coverage, Power Shift stimulated awareness through the educational benefits afforded to every individual that attended.
"I definitely learnt a lot," admits Tim, "and it certainly increased the awareness of people there."
A message of hope
But success is not always measured in numbers and coverage, and in addition to its emphasis on information and evidence, Power Shift sought to encourage a message of hope.
"I think people can sometimes be crippled into inaction when it comes to climate change," explains Tim. "Power Shift tried to inspire people, and have a message of hope so that we can find positive alternatives."
"I think it was more about what can be done, rather than what is wrong."
Chris Tagle also attended the Power Shift event, and was similarly inspired by the opportunities afforded and the proactive message reinforced through group activities and discussions.
"I believe one of the more important things I learnt is really simply our time of complacency must come to an end," he concedes.
A highlight for Chris was being part of the "flash-dance-mob" on the steps of the Opera House, which he believes helped "to send a message of a new hope, ideas, and action in creating a power shift to our new generation."
"The Powershift conference further highlighted the need to establish key goals for our world in terms of combating climate change. Individuals, experts, politicians provided revitalizing views into the overall picture."
Not surprisingly, the success of Power Shift has already sparked discussion for a similar event to be held in 2010. But if 12 months seems like too long to wait, the AYCC is hard at work at a new initiative, hoping to carry the proactive spirit of Power Shift all the way to Copenhagen for the international climate conference (new window) that will take place in December 2009.
The "Youth Decide" campaign aims to garner a comprehensive response from Australia's youth to the pressing policy concerns of climate change.
Youth Decide '09 is a national youth vote on the issue, and hopes to encourage a "united youth voice" so that the Australian Government can confidently represent the values of those who will be most affected by the consequences of global warming - the next generation.
In the meantime, perhaps the world leaders heading to Copenhagen should take a leaf out of Power Shift's book, and consider packing their dancing shoes - just in case.
To find out more about Youth Decide '09, go to: www.youthdecide.com.au (new window).
For more articles about the environment, check out our articles archive.
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