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Mace & Crown | April 26, 2018

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These 10 People Want to Save our Planet

These 10 People Want to Save our Planet

To an outsider a college road trip to Pittsburgh, Pa., may seem like a perfect opportunity to party in hotels.  However, a group of 10 young people from Old Dominion University and the surrounding community piled into cramped cars, battled traffic and slept on couches and floors for the Power Shift 2013 climate change conference. These dedicated members missed meals and attended fourteen-hour-long workshops filled with lectures, panels and speeches by featured scientists and professionals from the environmental community.  They made these sacrifices so they could better educate students about the threat of environmental devastation and find a way for this generation to conquer it.


Erin Fagan

Fagan is only one person that can somehow get a grip on her long list of credentials.  At ODU she works in Marine Conservationas the public relations and marketing coordinator of Auxiliary Services.  Fagan served as Regional Recruitment Coordinator for Power Shift 2013, head of the planning committee for the Marine Biology Student Association, as the regional recruitment coordinator for Greenpeace, and the environmental project manager for TerraScapes.  She also works with Eco Reps, the ODU Women’s Center, Oceana, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).  While at Power Shift, she attended classes on anti-oppression that were more specific than any she had been to in the past.   At Power Shift, she participated in a protest against investment in fossil fuels, primarily focused on fracking and mountaintop removal in Pennsylvania.

Tynell Johnson

 In his senior year with the civil engineering program at ODU, this founder and president of Eco Reps had few expectations of his first Power Shift summit.  He hoped to expand his understanding of the green movement and while there learned about the different ways to engage a large number of people via social media.  He also attended lectures about food justice and social justice, which educated about how to break down barriers between people regardless of differences in religion, ethnicity or gender.  Johnson did extensive networking while attending Power Shift such as working with student and environmental leaders. After he talked with keynote speaker Kandi Mossett, Johnson said he now understands both sides of the coin.

  “I understand what the industry wants you to believe …and I understand the downside of fracking once they [industry] leave and the environmental chaos starts.  Speaking with her kind of changed my outlook on fracking, and I can say I’m not for it anymore, because I don’t want what happened to her family to happen to my family,” said Johnson.

Brit Nicholson

 During his time at Old Dominion University, Nicholson earned his Master’s in geological oceanography before doing two years of postgraduate research in Physical Oceanography.  He has previously served as a teacher’s assistant in the Oceanography Department, but currently holds a teaching assistanceship in the Modeling and Simulation Department, where he is pursuing his PhD.  Climate change is his primary area of interest in the environmental movement, though he has decades of experience in environmental activism.  During his second Power Shift, Nicholson attended trainings on food justice, United Nations environmental policy, and fracking.  These sessions prepared him to become a more prepared movement in local environmental groups.  With his extensive experience in geology, Nicholson came to the conference with expert knowledge about coal.

“Clean coal isn’t clean.  The technology isn’t there.  If you want clean energy, you have to stick to the renewables.” When a few advocates for the coal industry accused the 1,000 Power Shift protesters on a bridge over Pittsburgh’s Allegheny River that they were “confused” and “job killers,” Nicholson responded,”Innovation wins.  Progress wins.  Welcome to the future,”  said Nicholson.

Maeha Karlow

Though her academic pursuits are time consuming this junior psychology major still finds time to volunteer.  She is the current Vice President of EcoReps.  The 2013 trip was Karlow’s first Power Shift.  She is already active in pursuit of greater campus sustainability and community gardening around ODU.  During Power Shift, Karlow attended focused sessions on food justice, but also branched out into lectures and panels on anti-oppression, divestment, community and self-care and recruitment.

Sean Davis

As a sophomore in the English program at ODU, Davis’ academic career may seem distant from environmental concerns.  However, Power Shift offered sessions related to liberal arts study.  During his time at the summit, Davis learned about indigenous groups living on the front lines of the fight against environmental devastation perpetrated by fossil fuels. Davis was thankful for the opportunity to “hear the voices that are not heard in the mainstream.” Seven protesters not affiliated with ODU were arrested for trespassing during the October 21 protest. The cohesiveness of the ODU Power Shift group was another motivating force for him to continue in environmental activism. Davis plans to use the perspective he gained from Power Shift in his future writing projects.

Miriam Novotna

 As a senior in accounting and finance, a member of Eco Reps, community service chair for F.O.R.E.I.G.N.E.R.S., and treasurer for the women’s rugby team, Novotna has a full schedule.  Even with all of these responsibilities, Novotna devoted four full days to learning new strategies to better protect our planet. While at Power Shift, she met with people from all over the country as she attended training sessions on fracking, mountain top removal, tar sands, global warming, and social issues such as racism.  The environmental justice sessions were especially eye-opening for Novotna.

Jerrica Rawls

Attending Power Shift inspired Rawls to change her major to environmental science in her senior year. When Rawls agreed to attend the summit, she wanted to get different perspectives on environmental issues, and to get up to date on changes within the movement. During trainings on anti-oppression and environmental justice, Rawls learned how climate change disproportionately affects the poorest members of American society.  At Power Shift, Rawls became a part of the newly formed Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, and worked on a committee to set the parameters for the logo. Rawls hopes to implement an ODU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

Jon Aldridge

Though he is not an ODU student, as a resident of Hampton Roads and a student in University of Maryland University College’s in environmental management program, Aldridge found common ground with the ODU students attending Power Shift.  He learned about the effects of fracking, and it troubled him that people on the Fort Berthold reservation “can’t see the stars for the flares (that burn off natural gas during the fracking process) that make it hard to distinguish day from night.”  Power Shift motivated Aldridge to continue to educate friends and family members about conservation and the true cost of waste. 


Robbie Barton

Though Barton graduated from UVA in English, his education did not end there.  Power Shift taught Barton about the “difficult realities that they’re going to have to deal with if they’re going to make progress.”  Barton focused on sessions related to effective leadership strategies in activism.  Power Shift taught Barton that “it’s really important not to go into a community and impose change- (educators) have to work locally and expand out.”

Carter Nicholson

The son of Brit Nicholson, Carter has attended environmental events since he was two years old.  At age five, his growing understanding of environmental issues may help him become a leader forthe next generation of activists.  Carter also realized his goal of seeing the world’s largest rubber duck while in Pittsburgh.

Amanda Kirk

Staff Writer