To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process. 僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン（Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。 化石燃料や原子力に頼らず、他国の資源を取らない、自給自足な国へのトランジションを実現させてゆきたいです。
Engaging with climate change and energy issues.Power Shift Japan is youth for social change.
Original interview and article by Eri KimuraTranslation by Kai Sawyer and Jhang Ling Engaging with climate change and energy issues.
“I want to change our society. I want to make our world a better place. But, how do I do that?” Thoughts like these are in the minds of many people.
Often times, the actions of one individual or one organization are not enough to make big changes. However, if we gather together, our power will increase.
With this hope in mind, Power Shift began its work in America with the aim to raise the voices of the youth to solve the massive issue of global climate change back in 2007.
Gathering students from different corners of the US to Washington every two years, Power Shift provides the stage for attendees with common goals to discuss the methods or policies that may make alternative energy more widespread. Active students share best practices that will likely lead to more effective actions.
Following the US, other countries such as Canada and Australia have conducted their own “Power Shifts”. Power Shift is now spreading across the globe. Now Japan will for the first time host “Power Shift Japan” on February 22nd and 23rd.
This may be the first time that youth are organizing an event for social change that is part of a global movement in Japan. The two day program includes sessions to reflect on why we take action and how to engage with society which will lead to tangible next steps.
A session to share thoughts and feelings on climate change and energy issues with participants from all over Japan.
A campaigner from an international NGO will teach how to effectively engage with society.
Examining challenges and opportunities associated to social change in Japan by understanding history.
Power of Youth
Presenting examples of youth activism from around the world
Participants will develop campaigns based on what they learned the previous day
Established youth groups, NGOs, and community groups are invited to share relevant campaigns
Presentations from each group about actions they will take after the Power Shift Japan event
All participants will take part in an action
Not only will NPO/NGOs be present, the youth representative to COP (UN climate change conference), Liangyi Chang, will be attending from Taiwan. He will talk about what world youth are doing, and share a little about his activism around nuclear power and climate change in Taiwan.
We held an interview with Kai Sawyer, the lead-organizer for the internationally recognized Power Shift Japan.
Caption: Kai Sawyer has parents from the US and Japan
Kai has visited eco-villages and transition towns around the world and holds workshops through his project “Tokyo Urban Permaculture” in order to propagate concepts and skills for sustainable living and farming.
Kai’s first encounter with Power Shift was last June, when he was invited by a friend to attend the Global Power Shift convergence held in Istanbul, Turkey.
“Global Power Shift was a thrilling five-day event that brought together 500 young activists from more than 130 countries. There were attendees who were involved in movements such as, the Egyptian Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, and Kurdish protests against Saddam Hussein…… People came from different movements, but we all united for our concern about the state of our global environment.
The message that Global Power Shift had for the attendees was to initiate their own Power Shifts, so after getting back to Japan, I outreached for collaborators and made preparations.”
Kai talks about how we can become hopeful about social change from attending events like these, but that is not enough to transform society.
“It is quite common that these events end at the end of the day, but what is necessary is to take one step further and take action. As Power Shift we are focusing on taking action through “campaigns”. This includes identifying specific goals, planning action steps, and fulfilling them. Even if it takes time to achieve the goals, and even if things don’t go as planned, I believe what is important is to take action.”
Caption: In Sydney, Power Shift staged a flash mob as part of their campaign.
One of Kai’s first goals is to “transform Japanese universities to be powered by 100% green energy”. In fact, the university that Kai had attended, University of California Santa Cruz, had implemented 100% renewable energy through student activism!
Each citizen can make change
“I wasn’t always interested in social issues.” University was Kai’s entry point into activism.
“I was sucked into the anti-war movement against the invasion into Iraq. We were a small group of several dozen students, but we were able to drive military recruiters off campus every year and shutdown the university along with supportive professors and community members on the day of the invasion. We had such an impact that the national media and Federal Government started to take notice.
Even then we didn’t give into fear because we all felt, ‘something is seriously wrong here.’ Seeing all these activists, I started to believe that there is nothing cooler and needed than social activism”
It is not only those in powerful positions, but ordinary citizens can make change. Especially in the West, people are conscious of a history where social movements have transformed society, and Kai began to believe that as well as he became an activist.
“Ultimately we weren’t able to stop the war, but there is a major difference in consciousness between not acting and taking action. As our country prepared for war, I felt strange that our university classes continued as if nothing had changed. I couldn’t focus. That’s when students who felt similarly started their own class that addressed social problems that were relevant to us now.
We ran the program ourselves, even funded it, and invited speakers like Satish Kumar and Vandana Shiva. Having activist guest lecturers from around the world was really exciting.
But, just listening to a talk isn’t going to make change. That’s where the idea of Action Research Teams came in. These groups focused on a specific issue, came up with a solution, then implemented it. One of these groups helped our campus switch to 100% green energy.
Through this educational program that changed the university from within, and off-campus activism, students are able to engage with society as active change makers rather than passive consumers. With a passion to spread a similar movement in Japan, Kai started his work in Tokyo at the beginning of 2012.
I want to change the activism in Japan
“Many people believe you cannot change the status quo, but what is critical is to learn that we can indeed change how things are.”
“What prevents change is our thinking. ‘Things don’t change even if I vote’, ‘the economy won’t change’, ‘we can’t make change’ are all popular beliefs. It’s not easy to change this way of thinking, but we need to change our thinking in order to create a sustainable world.”
A survey of Japanese youth shows that 70% of youth believe their actions will not make a difference in society.
“A handful of older men make almost all major decisions that affect our country. But as the ones who will be inheriting that world, I want the youth to be empowered to create their own future. “
Japanese have a very limited awareness of citizens making social change but the fact is that it was citizen movements that enabled women to vote and for workers to have rights they have today. There are lots of other examples.
When we say “activism”, most people immediately think of Anpo-Tousou and Daigaku Tousou,* but if you really look at history, you’ll realize that citizens have created the world we live in today, and you will develop the consciousness that we will continue to create our society.
*Mass protests in the 60s and 70s that turned violent with opposing Leftist factions killing members of the other group’s members.
Caption: At Power Shift, they also made art.
“Activists in Japan, including myself, receive a lot of criticism. But because I love the passion of activists and and fun of activism, I’ve been able to joyfully continue for over 10 years. I think if we don’t integrate more art and music, creativity and fun, while also being effective, activism in Japan won’t last.
That’s why through Power Shift Japan, I have connected the young activists and groups that I’ve met so far, and other overseas groups, all with an aim to build a strong horizontal network around the globe.
“I’m an activism nerd,” Kai continues.
“As I started to meet students involved with the anti-war movement, nuclear abolition, human rights of LGBT, low-income populations, to racism, I thought ‘this is all important!’ And my interest in a wide variety of social problems started to grow.
Right now, the issues that I am most interested in are the de-nuclearisation and climate change. In terms of nuclear power, while people have differing opinions, the level of awareness has greatly increased. But, with climate change, very few people seem to genuinely care. I want to bridge the anti-nuclear movement with climate justice movement.”
Creating a world where everyone is cared for
“Activism is not my hobby or my job, it is my path in life” says Kai. He continues with his desire, “I want to create a world where all people have equal rights and live peacefully.”
“Even though we know the problems we face, our environment continues to deteriorate and national debt continues to rise. The burden on future generations keeps growing, and they have no choice but to inherit it. It’s a hard future to stay hopeful in, and that is why for the future generations, I want to change this reality. Through Power Shift Japan, I hope we can take a big step in the right direction.”
Climate change and energy issues seem like problems that are too big to solve, and many of us might shy away from them. Why not take this opportunity to join Power Shift Japan, to learn and think of solutions, then start to take action?