Esther Peceval, Flordia Fellow
After I hit submit to my application, I closed my laptop and I could feel good news coming my way. Although I was nervous, I just had a strong feeling that I’d get selected to attend the Power Shift Network ’23 Convergence. Recently, doing any work climate-related felt like trying to count to infinity. I just really needed some new light to keep moving forward, and I believed that this Convergence was the extra bit I needed. The purpose of the Convergence was to bring together thousands of young people and provide them with the skills to mitigate the pending climate catastrophe through three days of training, workshops, panels, and actions. For a long time, I was calling the event I desperately wanted to attend, a conference instead of a convergence. I didn’t exactly understand what the difference was before I attended, but I understood afterward.
In Calculus we have this concept of a converging series. A Series is “a number of things, events, or people of a similar kind or related nature coming one after another.” Each number, item, or thing is considered a partial sum. A Converging Series in Calculus refers to the idea that an “infinite series whose partial sums tend to a specific number, also called a limit.” If the sum of a series gets closer and closer to a certain value as we increase the number of terms in the sum, we say that the series converges. In other words, there is a limit to the sum of a converging series. This idea of calculating an infinite amount of terms to reach a finite value is crazy to even consider. This is of course a simplified version of the Converging Series. But, in the same way, climate activists collectively put in the effort to make a difference ties into a much greater purpose. Though it may feel like individual actions make no difference, the accumulation of these actions over time can lead to significant progress. Because you could be a drop in a bucket, or you could be a drop in the ocean.
Now, let’s discuss convergence! I landed in Bvlbancha, famously known as New Orleans, and I could instantly feel the vibe of the city. During our short walk to the convergence, we met a group from the organization “The People’s Justice Council. ”This was my first connection with someone across the state that is working towards climate justice. It’s through them that I heard about the campaign, “Power 4 Southern People NOT Southern Company.” Southern Company is a utility monopoly that emits egregious levels of greenhouse gasses, uses ratepayers’ dollars to influence politicians, and they are responsible for the ridiculous utility rates in minority and underserved communities. The campaign intends to unite southerners, typically in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to stop the harmful actions of Southern Company and its monopoly on utilities for southern states. Hearing what their jobs consist of, and what their plans are in tackling climate change and hearing the efforts happening in a completely different state was electrifying. After sign-in, we were greeted with a big welcome and a marching band. I could say this was my favorite part of the convergence. Seeing the entire crowd enjoying the band, and some even dancing was an excellent way to start us off. Also, coming from an HBCU student, the marching band was very much appreciated. After that celebration and some informative speakers, we moved toward our sessions.
My first session discussed Third Spaces and Autonomous Youth Organizing. This session was my favorite session, and I knew I wanted to attend the second I read the Itinerary. Third Spaces are “places where people spend time between home (‘first’ place) and work (‘second’ place).” During our conversations on third spaces, I realized some eye-opening things about my climate activist work. As a fellow student, I have tried to connect to other students for climate action, but it never truly felt complete. My conversations with the other Our Climate members on the Florida team are virtual, and I feel like I haven’t fully rooted myself in the other climate justice organization that I’m in. After we discussed barriers to Third Spaces, things started to click on why I haven’t felt like I truly had a third space. To be frank, that discussion taught me that what I was looking for was called a Third Space. The second-half session was about Autonomous Youth Organizing, and that discussion allowed me the space to visualize what I would want any climate-centered organization to be like if I created one. I would say that this session was a conversation that I really needed to hear. It gave me the answer I was looking for since I started my fellowship in Our Climate.
My second session was my last, and I learned about the HBCU Green Fund created by Felicia Davis. I think this session was the most entertaining of the two, it also felt the most authentic. I got to hear about the experiences of fellows in the HBCU Green Fund, and I was simply left in awe of the experience that these students had, the work that they had done, and the overall management and performance of this organization. After the second session, we went back to the hotel and I got to meet the other OC team members. It’s quite the experience meeting someone you’ve only ever seen from a small square on your computer or just read their name through emails. I got to learn more about Our Climate, and the work currently being done in other states. To add to that, I really connected with the other fellows and OC staff. Being in a completely new environment with people you’ve never met is nerve-racking. But this trip was an amazing mix of people. I was honestly a little sad to leave.
To sum it up, The PSN Convergence was an unforgettable experience that strangely aligned with my past year’s climate action work and academic pursuits. It’s almost like everything I’ve learned in the past year has equipped me to take my activism to the next level, and the Convergence was what I needed to glue it all together.Esther Perceval is a Florida state Our Climate Fellow, and a student at Florida Agricultural Mechanical University (FAMU). Esther is a Chemical Engineer/Material Science major and is passionate about water and waste management. Esther has lived in Florida her entire life and was born in Miami. She attended Valencia College in Orlando, and now attends FAMU in Tallahassee. Having ties althrought Florida, Esther has an interest in linking sustainable relations throughout the state, in order to strengthen the collective, which led to Esther joining Our Climate.