Kristin Casper is a campaigner for Greenpeace Clean Energy Now!. She works with schools, cities, and the state of California to invest in clean energy and protect the climate and future generations from global warming.
Monday, 29 Jul 2002
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif
I like Monday mornings. As a Clean Energy Now! campaigner for Greenpeace, I spend most of my weekends recruiting new volunteers, getting people to sign postcards, or even powering concerts with our solar/bio-diesel truck, The Rolling Sunlight. The truck has a solar array powerful enough to provide juice for three energy-efficient homes for an entire day. Compared to the long hours spent organizing at the local level on weekends, Mondays are relaxing.
Plus my day got off to a good start. I woke up this morning, jumped on my bike, and rode to the rock gym. Bouldering in the gym in the mornings starts my day right and provides me with the energy I need to get through yet another seven-day work week. After a short session on the wall, I arrived at the office and was happy to find no urgent deadlines awaiting me on my desk — just my coffee, my email, and me. When I clicked on the “Receive” button, my inbox was flooded with messages from around the world. Some sample subject lines: Greenpeace UK Launches New Stop Esso Guerrilla Website; Greenpeace Mexico Blocks Another Shipment of Genetically Modified Corn.
The Greenpeace world is vast, and once you are in, rumor has it you’ll never leave. In my experience as an activist, it is at once the tightest and largest network of people working together on a shared commitment to social and environmental change; at times, that commitment is such that it overrides all of our personal lives.
I am relieved to see an email from my Thai counterpart, Dao, Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate campaigner. She sent me a quick note providing vague details on one of our ships, the Rainbow Warrior, which is now on tour in the Philippines. She must have been too excited to bother with punctuation, but her message is clear: The Southeast Asia team is successfully stopping dirty coal-powered plants, and the community installations of wind and solar power are going smoothly. No surprise from a woman who was able to get all of the executive directors of Greenpeace and a group of Buddhist monks together for the blessing of solar panels on a school in a rural Thai village.
Dao and I first worked together on a campaign to stop the construction of a power plant in Bo Nok, Thailand. Thai villagers had been protesting the plant already for eight long years. They organized massive civil disobedience actions, and at one point thousands of protestors blockaded a major highway. Greenpeace Southeast Asia was inspired by this grassroots uprising and decided to help out by focusing international attention on the struggle. The Thai people did not want dirty energy — in fact, not even the prime minister wanted the coal power — but the California-based Edison Corporation was pushing the huge coal project on to the villages.
When Greenpeace Southeast Asia realized that the main instigator was a California company, they gave us a call in San Francisco. We agreed that Edison should not build power plants abroad that would violate environmental regulations in California. It was clear that Greenpeace U.S. had an obligation to join the campaign and expose the dirty double standard.
This past April, activists, including myself, put a fake power plant in the middle of the parkway at the corporate headquarters of Edison International, down in southern California. By converting an old school bus, painting it black, and constructing smoke stacks, we visibly showed Edison what it is like to have a power plant in its community, while also sending a direct message to the CEO that the company should leave Thailand unless it changes its investment from dirty energy to clean energy. After being locked down to the fake power plant for over 24 hours, the activists were sawed out by Irvine police.
Recently, the prime minister of Thailand put the plant on hold instead of canceling it outright, fearing that the country would have to pay Edison for not fulfilling the contract. The Southeast Asia office continues to work with the local village and the Thai government to establish a clean energy economy that will support the livelihood of the area. Meanwhile our team in California keeps pushing for corporations to invest in clean energy at home and abroad.
I wrote a quick email back to Dao wishing her luck with the rest of the Rainbow Warrior tour. I will always remember the lesson I learned from the villagers and campaigners: Strong and aggressive action is necessary to bring about social and environmental justice.
The rest of my day was filled with my usual recruiting, planning, and researching. And finally I rode my bike home to my apartment — which has an extra room for Greenpeace folk that are on the road and need a place to crash. No one was there, but I expect someone could roll through by nightfall.