Virginia Powershift: The Start of 100 Actions

by Abigail Rogers

October 6, 2011

The state of Virginia has played a great number of roles in the story of my life: As a child of the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge and Appalachia Mountains were the benign castle walls of that defined my self-proclaimed homeland. As an adolescent, the 42,774 square mile territory was one outside of which my parents would have to pay “too much” for a higher-level education. As an organizer, I came to know the mid-atlantic state as a revolutionary machine in which I was a turning cog, and after the Virgnia Powershift’s kick-off of 100% clean, I’m proud to announce that said machine is running at full speed ahead.

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; 2pm Sunday:
21 masked faces step through an 8-foot smoke-stacked structure in single file. Silent and solemn, they make their way across a stage to form a living curtain behind one single microphone. Thomas Hall resident, Mattie Rigatti stands in front of them with a photograph in her hand: a white cloth turned entirely black from one wipe across her window sill. This is what life is like living next to a coal plant. Rigatti spoke at length about the headaches she’d experienced since move-in day, her worsening asthma and the loud industrial noises that prevented her from studying and sleeping on regular basis. With each testimonial, the crowd of 200 seemed to grow a little more restless. Is this how Virginia Tech wants students to remember their alma mater?

A few speakers later and Hokie Erica Largen asked the question: “What kind of world do you want to live in? When you decide, you must act to sustain it, or it will transition to something less than you and your children deserve.”

The forty shoes on stage awoke and moved down the stairs toward two wooden windmills. Each student stripped their surgical mask and exchanged it in for a yellow t-shirt and a green hard-hat. They lined up once again to share a unified and powerful message with the crowd: “WE STAND FOR CLEAN ENERGY.”

“We talked a lot about the action and what message we wanted it to portray,” said Virginia Powershift steering committee member Samantha Corron. ” We didn’t want the operation to have a negative vibe, but we also wanted to be direct in pushing the dirty to clean agenda. Being a theater kid in high school, I immediately thought what can we build?’ and things just panned out from there.”

Within five minutes of Virginia Tech Senior, Muriel Vinson, starting a chant, more than 100 activists had taken to the streets to bear witness to an outdated smokestack and monster piles of uncovered coal a mere 50 feet away from student dorms. In a single viewfinder, a university’s past seriously endangered the existence of it’s future. A united Virginia parted the smog with one crystal clear demand: we’re not leaving, we won’t quiet down and we demand 100% clean energy NOW.

Virginia Powershift is only the beginning. In the next 25 days, over 100 actions of similar resolve will be taking place nationwide. As educated young people we have the responsibility to take back our futures from corporate lounges, cancer treatment centers and coal mines. Join us in drawing a line in the sand by registering your event at

-Abbie Rogers is the Greenpeace Student Board Online Social Networking Coordinator

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