WSF Youth Leverage Consumer Power to Challenge Coal

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Siiri and Taylor at the 350 10/10/10 event in Minneapolis

Did you know that the University of Minnesota has the last remaining coal burning plant in Minneapolis? Prospective college students are teaming up with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to do something about it.

Siiri and Cole are both seniors in high school, both passionate about climate change solutions, and both co-chairs for Youth Environmental Activists! Minnesota (YEA! MN), a program of the Will Steger Foundation and Alliance for Sustainability. Siiri is a senior at Stillwater High School where she helped found the environmental club on campus that this year recruited close to 60 students to it’s first meeting, no small thing for a school located in one of the most conservation districts in Minnesota. Cole, on the other hand, is a senior at Blake Academy, located in the heart of Minneapolis where the political bent leans consistently to the left. This illustrates the wide spread of community representation in the YEA! MN network, along with a range inner-city public and charter schools in Minneapolis and St Paul.

SSC-beyondcoal-smallBoth students jumped at an invitation from the Beyond Coal Campaign to engage YEA! MN in a video campaign targeting the last remaining coal plant in the Twin Cities. As prospective college students, Siiri and Cole are well aware of what tuition costs these days. They are also well aware of the consumer power their generation holds as the largest generation boom since the 1960s. Leveraging this power, Siiri, Cole, and numerous other high school students across Minnesota are joining forces to launch a series of YouTube videos. Voicing their disappointment in the University of Minnesota and it’s energy policy, the students speak directly to administrators calling for clean energy alternatives to the current coal-powered system.

“Coal destroys local economies, public health, and natural resources, from rural communities across America.” Siiri explains. “Not only that, but most of the coal from Minnesota comes from Montana. Lets work towards a sustainable energy future that comes from our own state.”

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Siiri and Cole present at Green Schools National Conference in Minneapolis this fall

Fellow Stillwater student Taylor chimes in, “As I’m searching for colleges I’m looking for schools that are eco-friendly. Since the UMN Twin Cities campus claims that they are taking green initiatives I think it would be ideal for you to stop burning coal in Minneapolis.”

Cole creates his own video and with a commanding presence that belies his years asks the following question: “Hey University of Minnesota…I’ve seen your adds on TV and in one of them Dr. Massoud Amin says that you are powering the revolution. But what kind of revolution is that if you are powering it with coal?”

Coal provides about half of our electricity in the US and more than 30% of our global warming pollution. From the mine to the plant, to the ash pond, coal is our dirtiest energy source. It causes asthma and other health problems, destroys our mountains, and releases toxic mercury into our communities. Continuing our dependence on coal chains us to dirty energy and prevents us from making the changes we need to bring about a clean, secure energy future. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, largely youth lead, is aimed at transitioning coal plants off of campuses across the US, thus ending the dependence on coal-generated electricity from the grid and building 100% clean energy schools.

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Get University of Minnesota to move Beyond Coal
Green Schools National Youth Summit

Another video giving a more in depth idea of the day and entirety of activities that went on. There was Generation Waking Up, breakout groups, guest speakers, idea sharing tables and much more. Be sure to check www.yeamn.org for future events like this. Get out and get active!

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