SCHONEKER: From the eye of the storm



Jake Schoneker

It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night in Maryland, where a storm of energy has gathered. On Friday night, the winds of change rushed in from every corner of the nation – 5,500 of America’s most motivated young leaders found their way to Washington to mark a new era of social change. For two days and three nights, it rained.

But there was no water, no pain in sight, on those nights – or on those long, frenzied days. There was instead a flood of knowledge, flowing high into eager minds. The rain was busy inspiring the hearts of a generation. We stood and watched as a new green wave gathered and grew. The best and brightest from all walks of life – ecologists and economists, engineers and union workers – all converged to form something beautiful: a new social and environmental movement ready to tackle the great challenges ahead. We stand at the center of a new Power Shift to the youth of the nation – the time when our entire generation stands up to protect our future on this earth.

For two days, the storm raged, and we were swept up by a vast tide of ideas. We soaked in the revolution and the work of our predecessors, those great visionaries who have put this movement into motion. We’ve seen the founders of the Campus Climate Challenge and the Step it Up Campaign give us a new vision for sustainability under 1Sky. We heard Ralph Nader call us to our activist roots and Nancy Pelosi call us to make good on our great impatience. We heeded the call of the indomitable Van Jones, who filled us with a dream – a fair future for all, a world where injustice and poverty have succumbed to the forces of change. Now the rain has stopped, and we are now soaked in the knowledge of our power.

As I sit in my hotel room, watching NBC air messages for environmental awareness during a nationally televised Eagles game, I reflect from the eye of the storm, and I can see how far we’ve come. I can see how far I’ve come. Just a few short years ago, environmentalism to me meant chaining people to trees and saving the whales. It meant restraining the forces of human progress and potential in order to save the earth. Now nothing could be further from the truth. Saving the world will require us to evolve, progress and prosper in a fundamental and incredible way. It will bring us together and forward all at once. The question of environmentalism has become the question of the continued existence of mankind.

We have figured a lot of things out. The hurricane hit hard, but now we’re halfway there. We all struggled with the hard issues and learned how to harness the winds of change. Now it’s time to face the storm again with renewed vigor, with new knowledge, and battle through to the other side, to the calm paradise that awaits us beyond.

Tomorrow, the long road to prosperity begins anew. Thousands of us – a new generation of voters, more active and more powerful than any in history – will descend upon Capitol Hill and demand solutions. We want an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions in this country by 2050. We need millions of new green-collar jobs, pulling people out of poverty and putting them to work for clean energy. We need to invest in our future, and end our reliance on the fossil fuels of our past. We need our representatives and senators in Congress to make visionary proposals – and they will, because they need our generation for their reelection campaigns.

Make no mistake: This is not a battle that will be won in a day, nor a year, nor a decade. This is a fight that we will be dealing with for the rest of our lives – but we must begin today. We have the power now to make a difference and set a course to win this fight -not just for the environment. For us. For our children. For the future. So enough idle talk about the global warming horror story – we have a lot of work to do. It’s time to get started.


Jake Schoneker is a senior political science and humanities major from Lansdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].