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October 30, 2013 / pittsburghsec

Writing Our Own Story After Power Shift

Over 2,000 young people and locals of all ages flooded the Pittsburgh streets to demand clean energy for all.

Over 2,000 young people and locals of all ages flooded the Pittsburgh streets to demand clean energy for all.

Power Shift 2013 ended over a week ago, and I still get chills thinking about what we accomplished together. Think about it for a second. Thousands of young people from all walks of life across the country came HERE to our beautiful city of Pittsburgh for a weekend of learning, solidarity, and action. Power Shift didn’t come to Pittsburgh because it was convenient, but because this city is an icon for the good, the bad, and the possible.  We earned the privilege of having Power Shift here because our history is rich with stories of renewal, yet the specter of fracking places us at the crossroads of dirty industry and truly sustainable solutions once more. Now we must use that privilege to write our own story of how the millennial generation picks the right path. We have been left with the super charged spirit of a new movement, and it is our responsibility to nurture that spirit into thriving.

So, how do we do that?

Plug In — Stay engaged with the latest local and national movement happenings with these resources:

Take Action — Learning is great, but nothing happens unless our movement actually moves the status quo by doing something about the injustices we see. Plan a campaign to affect the change you want to see, build a strong base of volunteers, turn up the pressure on your targets with creative tactics that create a compelling media narrative, and negotiate a victory when they can’t stand the heat any longer. Don’t be afraid to push decision makers for what you need, but never forget we’re all humans fighting for the same thing in the end. Here are a few ways to get involved right now:

  • Attend the next County Council Hearing on November 6th to support the Protect Our Parks campaign! The Power Shift day of action on October 21st was a HUGE boost for this campaign, and now we need to keep the pressure on Rich Fitzgerald so he doesn’t frack our county parks!
  • Plan an #ActOnClimate event. This could be something simple like a picture or a blog post shared on social media, an educational event that you create media buzz around, or a direct action that furthers your campaign. Think big! Here’s a toolkit for putting together an awesome event. Don’t forget to register your event at
  • Attend the Thomas Merton Center Award Dinner featuring Bill McKibben on November 4th at the Sheraton in Station Square. Bill will speak at 8 PM about the fossil fuel divestment movement at 8 PM (free for students, no registration necessary), and TMC will be launching their citywide divestment campaign. For those willing to pay $50, a benefit dinner will start at 6 PM.
  • Pay attention to the resources above for details on the next PSEC meeting or event

Spread the Word — Tell everybody about your experiences at Power Shift, what you learned, and how they can get involved! Share this post and other articles on social media, write blog posts on (super easy), and invite all of your friends to events you’re attending through facebook and word of mouth.

I am so inspired by what’s been done, and I am excited about what’s to come. I believe that we will win!

Onward and upward,

November 11, 2011 / pittsburghsec

Keystone XL decision delayed, but the fight is far from over

After an estimated 12000 individuals gathered Sunday to surround the White House in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama administration has now pushed making the pipeline decision until after the 2012 election.  This news has come as a bittersweet surprise. As a PSEC member who participated at the D.C. protest, I am happy that our action had some impact on this important administrative decision. It is however disappointing that the decision to invest in one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuels currently available was simply delayed, and not rejected, by an administration who promised to invest in cleaner energy in 2008.  Nevertheless, it does give some hope to those of us opposed to the pipeline. The State Department has stated that the delay was made in order to examine alternate routes for the pipeline construction that would avoid the ecologically sensitive regions of Nebraska, including the Ogallala aquifer. Given that many opposed to the pipeline had vowed to withhold electoral support for Obama  in 2012 if the pipeline is approved, the decision to delay seems to be a rather strategically sound move by the administration.  While it was likely fueled by a political desire to secure electoral support for Obama by the environmental movement in the 2012 election, it is nevertheless a small victory in the fight, as it leaves open possibility that the project will ultimately be rejected. A beacon of hope in this fight ironically comes from the source of the issue: TransCanada.  Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada asked “How long will those customers wait for Canadian crude oil to get to the marketplace before they sort of throw up their hands and say this is just never going to happen?.” For once, we hope that he is right. If this delay in decision has proven one thing, it is that large, grassroots public pressure can certainly impact policy decisions, even amidst heavy pressure by the political right to create short-term, dirty-energy jobs that serve to exacerbate the climate catastrophe. As many at the Sunday protest stated, “we need clean energy jobs, not jobs as gravediggers of the planet”.

In 2008, President Obama stated, “The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we’re contributing to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.”

Lets continue the fight to keep this dirty energy investment at bay. With our continued grassroots efforts, we may finally convince President Obama to stop ignoring the climate catastrophe and live up to his campaign promises!

Dee Seneviratne

October 14, 2011 / pittsburghsec

Questions about the Keystone pipeline approval process are raised by Congress

An article in Scientific American covers the story of how some US Lawmakers are concerned about the way in which the Keystone Pipeline decision is currently being made. Basically, over twenty members of congress have called out many of the issues associated with the process of approving the pipeline, including the fact that the contractors hired to do the environmental assessment have previously undisclosed ties to the TransCanada company itself.  It’s an interesting, as well as an informative read.

The full article can be found at :


October 12, 2011 / pittsburghsec

President Obama’s Visit to Pittsburgh Greeted by PSEC-Led Keystone XL Pipeline Protest in the South Side

“Obama Yes! Tar Sands No! That’s the way its got to go”; “Save the water, save the soil, we don’t want your dirty oil,” were among the many chants heard yesterday (October 11th) in South Side, Pittsburgh, as President Obama’s motorcade traveled down East Carson St.  The chants were part of a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama visited Pittsburgh to discuss the newly proposed jobs bill at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training center in South Side, Pittsburgh. The peaceful anti-Keystone protest, consisting primarily of University students and environmental groups, greeted Obama’s arrival in Pittsburgh with anti-pipeline chants and handmade signs asking him to veto the pipeline’s construction. We hope that the President who had promised us a greener future will listen.

The 1700 mile Keystone XL pipeline would carry synthetic crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, to oil refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, as well as to the U.S Gulf Coast. Alberta is home to the second largest carbon deposit in the world, and if the pipeline construction is approved, it would facilitate the release of immense amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere. At a time when global warming is becoming a dismal reality, pipeline’s construction would be an overwhelming blow to the environment. It will seriously undermine all efforts to shift towards a cleaner energy economy. Climate scientist Jim Hansen, has even referred to the pipeline’s construction as “game-over for the climate.”

Scientists and citizen groups alike argue that the development of the pipeline will also pollute the water, destroy thousands of acres of boreal forest, and potentially contaminate the lands of local residents, including those belonging to a number of First Nation Communities. Moreover, as the pipeline would cross a region that includes the Ogallala aquifer, it provides ample room for a disastrous oil spill and severe water contamination.

The successful protest rally with nearly one-hundred participants was organized primarily by PSEC (Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition) in just a couple of days at the request of the environmental pioneer Bill McKibben. PSEC only learned of Obama’s visit to Pittsburgh this weekend, and saw it as a golden opportunity to remind the President why so many had supported his “Change” message in the first place.  Other environmental groups including Tar Sands Action and University of Pittsburgh’s Free the Planet also joined in on the rally efforts. Many at the protest conveyed their irritation with the pipeline project by holding up signs stating “This is not the change we hoped for”, and “Change we can believe in is not dirty oil”. Seth Bush, Nikki Luke and Eva Resnick-Day were among the many PSEC members at the South Side rally protesting the pipeline. The three Pitt seniors had also participated in the anti-Keystone protests in Washington, D.C., earlier this fall.

President Obama acknowledged the chanting protesters with a smile and a wave as he passed by the large crowd. Although the protesters were Obama supporters, and many had campaigned for Obama during the 2008 campaign, there was an obvious sense of frustration among the crowd. Many felt let down by the fact that President Obama had not fulfilled his campaign promise of working towards a clean energy, green job driven economy.  U.S State Department is currently preparing to give a ruling on the Keystone pipeline, but even if the project is approved by the State Department, President Obama retains the power to reject it.

Individuals like Nikki Luke had worked tirelessly on the Obama campaign in 2008 and stated that they will still vote for Obama in 2012. However, many including Seth Bush and Nikki Luke also pointed out that if Obama approves the pipeline, they will not put in the same level of grassroots support towards fueling his campaign as they had done previously.  Seth Bush said that Obama had promised to work towards a clean energy future during his 2008 campaign, but “if he goes through with this, how can we trust him?”

The highly energized, successful rally bore no signs of being organized in a hurry. We hope that seeing our rally reminded the President to be the extraordinary leader we all believe him to be, and veto the pipeline proposal. We have faith that President Obama will truly be the “Change We Can Believe In”, and live up to his campaign promises.

Dee Seneviratne

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October 12, 2011 / intergenerationaljustice

Pittsburgh Says NO to Keystone XL Pipeline


Eva Resnick-Day reflects on the October 11 Rally:

This past Friday, the only thing I was worried about was coming up with a good presentation for the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference. While relaxing on my porch after a strenuous week of midterms, our student government president happened to walk by and inform us that the white house had just contacted her about Obama coming to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. We had been planning to confront the Organizing for America office the following Friday to tell Obama to stop the pipeline, but if Obama was in town, we had to send the message to him directly. I, however, had a midterm during the exact hour that Obama would be coming and resolved to recruit a few friends to greet him.

On Sunday at the AASHE conference, we grabbed Bill McKibben right before his speech and let him know we planned to greet Obama on Tuesday. At the end of his speech to a national conference of hundreds of climate leaders, he said the best thing they could do was attend the rally to meet Obama with a strong message to say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline at 11AM, Tuesday at 313 Oakland Ave. My heart skipped a beat- Bill McKibben, one of my idols, had just announced my house address to a national conference. What’s more- he then told us to stand up so everybody knew who to find. I hesitantly stood up with two of my friends, Nikki Luke and Seth Bush, who looked around nervously. What happened after was chaos. Within five minutes we were interviewed by the City Paper, the Tribune Review, and asked by dozens more what our plans were. The problem was—we didn’t have a plan. And I had a midterm when Obama was coming. Here’s the thing: If Bill McKibben calls you out at a national conference to organize a rally, you are going to organize a rally, whether you have a midterm or not.  

Immediately I entered frantic planning mode. We held a Tar Sands breakout group at the conference, and about 50 people showed up from all over North America. One individual was from Alberta, Canada, where the tar sands are located. It was incredibly inspiring to see our make shift event turn into a dedicated rally so quickly. Then organizing commenced- creating a plan, logistics, press releases, media teams, outreach, and dealing with secret service shutdowns of the pedestrian route we had planned to take. All of this consumed my life, while I remained unsure whether I’d even be able to attend the rally myself. After a group of my classmates all sent emails pleading for a different exam time, we were eventually granted an extension where we’d be able to take the test at 2pm instead. Obama was scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh around 11:15am.

The rally could not have gone better. About a hundred people showed up including my favorite professor and mentor. We marched from my house about 3 miles through the busiest street in Pittsburgh, with media chasing us as we hustled to reach Obama in time. The Police were accommodating and directed us to a point where Obama would drive by. The crowd’s energy and knowledge about the pipeline was palpable. As Obama waved and acknowledged our message, I was on the megaphone losing my voice leading the chant, which I had come up with that morning. “Obama: YES! Pipeline: NO!  That’s the way it’s got to go.” I cannot explain the rush this gave me. After all the emotion, I had to rush back to campus to make it in time for my exam which, in case you were wondering, went surprisingly well. What a day. Steven Colbert’s guests refer to going on his program as the “Colbert bump.” I believe we have just experienced the McKibben bump, and boy am I grateful.

October 10, 2011 / pittsburghsec

President Obama visits Pittsburgh: Rally Against the Keystone XL Pipeline on Tuesday October 11th

President Obama will be visiting Pittsburgh on Tuesday October 11th to meet with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. In order to let him know of the public opinion regarding the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and to remind him of his promise to work towards a clean energy economy, we will hold a peaceful rally, and carry a banner asking him to veto the construction of the pipeline.

Keystone pipeline will carry synthetic crude oil generated from processing tar sands from Alberta, Canada, through the United States to oil refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, as well as to the U.S Gulf Coast. Alberta is home to the second largest carbon deposit in the world, and if the pipeline construction is approved by the Obama Administration, it would facilitate the release of immense amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Given the potentially devastating consequences we face as a result of global warming, approval of the pipeline’s construction will be an overwhelming blow to the environment. Climate scientist Jim Hansen has referred to the pipeline’s construction as “game-over for the climate, and many environmental groups and scientists argue that approval of the pipeline will seriously undermine all efforts to shift towards a clean energy economy.

Additionally, citizens and scientists alike are concerned that the development of the pipeline will pollute the water, destroy thousands of acres of boreal forest, and potentially contaminate the lands of local residents, including those belonging to a number of First Nation Communities. As the Keystone XL pipeline would cross 1700 miles of the United States (including the Ogallala aquifer), it also provides ample room for a disastrous oil spill.

Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it is up to President Obama to make the decision regarding its construction within the United States. Although pro-pipeline groups are pressuring the president to approve its construction, we are asking him to veto it, and live up to his commitment to clean energy. The proposal to construct the pipeline was met with tremendous public dismay, and has so far resulted in the arrests of 1252 people in Washington DC. Now it is our time to stand up for the environment, and resonate the same message here in Pittsburgh. Please join us tomorrow for the peaceful rally and support a clean energy future at 11AM at East Carson St and South 29th Street. Pittsburgh, PA.

More information regarding the action can be found at our Facebook page:

Dee Seneviratne

October 10, 2011 / pittsburghsec

AASHE Student Summit

AASHE student summit is currently taking place (October 9th-12th) at the David Lawrence Center, in Pittsburgh, PA. PSEC teamed up with Black and Gold City Goes Green and co-sponsored the Northside Neighborhood Blitz community service event which took place on Sunday October 9th. At this event, Northside residents were given compact fluorescent bulbs, recycling bags and schedules, and other information in order to live more sustainable lives. More information regarding the student summit can be found at

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