It’s here! Over the past 24 hours, nearly 500 young people from 130 countries around the world have descended on Istanbul for Global Power Shift, a week long conference to help build a global climate movement.
This evening, a few of the global facilitators who will be leading sessions here at Global Power Shift welcomed participants to the summit during a raucous evening plenary. The welcomes were an introduction to Global Power Shift, but also a way of setting the tone and nature of the summit.
Navina Khanna, an Indian-American organizer and activist who is helping facilitate at Global Power Shift told a story about her split national identity and welcomed, “Everyone who has a strong cultural identity and everyone who doesn’t.”
Sotheary Sao, a Global Power Shift trainer from Cambodia, got big, knowing applause from the crowd when she said, “I would like to welcome everyone who had quite big problems with visas to get here.” Many Global Power Shift had to wait for weeks to get visas to come to Turkey, often traveling many hours back and forth to a capitol city to process their paperwork.
“What’s most important is that we all get to inspire each other based on our stories, and each of us has an authentic story to tell,” said Nanjira Sambuli, a facilitator from Kenya who will be leading workshops throughout the summit. Storytelling and communication are a big focus of Global Power Shift, from how to give a public speech to writing a compelling email.
Joao Scarpelini, one of the lead coordinators of Global Power Shift from Brazil, said to big cheers, “I want to welcome everyone that believes in the power of young people.” Participants at Global Power Shift range from teenagers to people in their forties, but all share the energy, ambition, and daring of youth.
The Turkish hosts of Global Power Shift also welcomed participants to the summit. “We are here to stand against more than 50 coal fired power plants,” said Mahir Ilgiz, the lead Turkish organizer for Global Power Shift. “Let’s start shifting power here in Turkey.”
Tomorrow morning, participants will hear from some of the lead organizers behind the Gezi Park and Taksim Square demonstrations that have rocked Turkey for the last few weeks. On Friday, participants will take part in a march to protest new coal plants in Turkey, part of a global day of events led by Greenpeace International.
After hearing from some of the summit’s facilitators, it was then a chance for the participants to introduce themselves (and show off a little bit from their region). The European delegation kicked things off by singing “Bella ciao,” a song of the anti-fascist resistance movement during World War II, in seven different langauges. Eastern Europe, Caucuses and Central Asia did a dance number to introduce the nine countries in their region. Next came rousing chants from North Africa and the Middle East, a dance number from East Africa that got the entire hall up on its feet, a song from Central Africa, and greetings from South Africa. Participants from South Asia shared chants from each of their countries while the East Asia contingent welcomed the crowd in different languages (the Korean participants included a Gangam Style pony-dance in their welcome). Next, the Americans led a crowd in dance, busting out different moves from countries up and down South, Central and North America. Last, but not least, Oceana and the Pacific rocked the stage with chants and a warrior dance.
After the introductions, 350.org’s Joshua Kahn Russell, who helped facilitate the creation of the curriculum for Global Power Shift, introduced the goals of Global Power Shift to the crowd.
“We’re not just talking about breadth and scale and numbers, but depth of relationships amongst one another,” said Joshua. “As young people, we’re inheriting a broken world full of divisions. One of the reasons we’re coming together here is to grapple with those differences and build one big movement where we all belong.”
“We’re here to catalyze, build something new together, something bigger, bolder and stronger than anything that any of us has done before,” added Navina.
As Joshua noted, this isn’t the first Power Shift, young people around the world have been organizing national Power Shift summits over the last six years, but this is the first Global Power Shift, making it a unique opportunity to take stock of the global climate movement and begin to chart a course for the road ahead.
Tomorrow, the official program will begin, kicking off an intense week of workshops, art builds, trainings, and panel discussions. Right now, participants are supposed to head back to the dorms here on campus and get some rest, but from what I can see, most folks seem to still be up and about, chatting, laughing, sharing stories, and creating the types of bonds that can help hold this movement together is it grows and grows. This is clearly just the beginning.