Minnesota Powershift 2008 Conference


In Ethan Buckner’s junior year at Hopkins High School, his four-member Earth Club put on a concert called “Earth Jam.” Buckner’s commitment to environmental issues continued through his senior year and graduation. Now he and a group of high school and college students will stage the Minnesota Powershift 2008 conference at Washburn High School on October 3-5. They hope to unite farmers, inner-city residents, labor leaders, small businesses, students and local government around a vision for clean economy (use of wind and solar energy) and sustainable future.

“We have chosen Representative Keith Ellison as one of our speakers because he has proven to be an unwavering supporter of climate and clean energy legislation in Congress. Keith is a community organizer at his core and understands what ‘people power’ truly means.” says Buckner. “The other is Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer who is an incredible speaker and public figure that has an understanding of the climate crisis and how it is interconnected with the world’s most prevalent issues. We felt these two speakers complemented each other well.”

Minnesota Powershift is the culmination of two years of committed environmental activism for Buckner. After the initial Earth Jam concert, the Earth Club wanted a sustained effort and interest around the environment. They applied for a community grant for solar panels for their school.

“We were certain that we were going to get the grant,” said Buckner, “but in the end funds were denied. As time passed we discovered that a wind turbine would have been more energy producing.”

When Buckner was a senior, the Earth Club grew to 40 students. He also became part of the group that launched Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA MN) an organization comprised of high school students working for sustainability.

This past summer, Buckner attended a two-month-long Macalester program, Summer Solutions, that drew college students from other parts of the United States. Buckner is also involved with Power Vote, a national, non-partisan effort to mobilize one million young voters to become “climate voters” in 2008.

Van Jones, a civil rights and environmental advocate in California is Buckner’s hero. Jones works to combine solutions to social inequality and environmental justice. He is the founder and president of Green for All, a national organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy to lift people out of poverty. Jones has written the book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix America’s Two Biggest Problems.

“There are many young people like myself locally and nationally that are coming together around the climate movement,” says Buckner. “We are handed down the challenges of our future.” Right after Minnesota Powershift conference, Ethan Buckner will take eight months off to travel, starting with Israel, before beginning studies at Vassar College.

Jeanette Fordyce contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.