Students for a Just and Stable Future was founded as Mass Youth Climate Action in the fall of 2007 by 4 Massachusetts students who had met through a national leadership gathering of the Sierra Student Coalition. Mass Youth Climate Action set as its initial goal to help pass the Global Warming Solutions Act, a state bill in Massachusetts that mandated economy-wide emissions of 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Towards this end (and inspired by the national Power Shift 2007 conference), the students organized a 500-person conference, Massachusetts Power Shift, in the spring of 2008. The conference included workshops, panels, addresses by Senator John Kerry, Congressman Ed Markey, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, and other prominent community, political, and religious leaders, along with a rally on the Boston Common, and a lobby day at the Massachusetts State House in support of the bill. After the conference, Mass Youth Climate Action chose to adopt the name Massachusetts Power Shift.
In the fall of 2008, Massachusetts Power Shift adopted Al Gore’s challenge to get 100% Clean Electricity in the next 10 years, and set about building the political will to make that change happen. That fall, the students engaged in the national Power Vote campagin to get students to pledge to vote for clean energy in the 2008 elections, while promoting the goal of 100% clean electricity on their campuses and approaching legislative allies in the State House. In the spring of 2009, Senator Marc Pacheco, Chairman of the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee, and Representative Frank Smizik, Chairman of the House Global Warming and Climate Change Commmitee, co-sponsored a resolution written by the students of Massachusetts Power Shift, calling on congress to Repower America with 100% Clean Electricity in 10 years. They also convinced Congressman John Olver to pledge his support on that resolution, and were congratulated in the congressional record (along with the state of Massachusetts) by Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas for their courage and vison.
In the fall of 2009, Massachusetts Power Shift kicked off The Leadership Campaign in partnership with the Massachusetts Council of Churches, calling for the state legislature to repower Massachusetts with 100% Clean Electricity by 2020. For a period of 7 weeks, student leaders slept outside of their dorms, apartments, and homes powered by dirty electricity to protest the way we power our homes, and to show solidarity with present and future climate refugees. At the end of their fall campaign, Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Will Brownsberger jointly filed An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force (again written by student leaders) in the State Senate and State House, with 15 co-sponsors. During the fall of 2009, the group changed its name to Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), to better explain who they are and what they stood for. In the spring of 2010 SJSF continued the campaign with three statewide sleep-outs, fist in Amherst, then in Cambridge, and finally on the Boston Common. The campaign’s energy was focused on lobbying the Massachusetts Legislature for the passage of their bill. The bill was late file, and had to pass through the rules committee in both the House and the Senate to reach the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Within days the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee Chair Frederick Berry passed the bill to the joint committee. Unfortunately, the bill was never moved through the Rules Committee in the House, and died at the end of the legislative session on July 31, 2010.
In the fall of 2010 SJSF focused on furthering its network of students, political leaders, local community organizations, and national organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Conservation Law Foundation. In this effort students organized or attended local events for Bill McKibben’s Get To Work Day on 10/10/2010, participated in political rallies for the Massachusetts 2010 election, held a statewide sleep-out in Worcester, and collaborated with Connecticut students to organize the Student Conference of the Parties at Wesleyan University. At the Wesleyan University conference a Declaration of Clean Energy was drafted and later presented in Cancun at a press conference. In the late spring of 2010, students from Connecticut College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University decided to launch Connecticut Students for a Just and Stable Future, formally expanding the organization beyond its Massachusetts base.
In the fall of 2011, SJSF organized around the Keystone XL Pipeline as part of the campaign run by the national Tar Sands Action network. They organized rallies, weekly lobbying trips to the Obama For America 2012 campaign offices, and a petition drive. Dozens of SJSF members attended the rally on November 7 at the White House with over 10,000 other protestors. SJSF members have also been heavily involved in lobbying and protests involving Senator Scott Brown as the fight against the pipeline has moved into Congress.
In addition, SJSF worked to establish the first-ever environmental caucus in the Massachusetts state legislature. Representative Smizik and Senator Eldridge agreed to co-sponsor the formation of a Green Economy Caucus, whose first meeting took place on February 13th. The caucus will be a space for legislators to learn about and work together to “promote legislation and policy that encourages economic growth and job creation based on sustainable development” (quote from the Caucus’ mission statement). SJSF has been instrumental in the founding of and the recruitment of members to the Green Economy Caucus.