You’ve seen them lining Michigan Avenue. Clipboards in hand, occasionally donning neon-colored vests, fanny packs across their waists: Greenpeace canvassers.
They might not be the people you most want to talk to as you’re attempting to get to work on time or avoid the masses of tourists in your way, but if environmental concerns have you up at night, this might be the cause for you.
Founded in 1971, Greenpeace started as an organization to protest against nuclear testing off of the coast of Alaska by placing themselves directly in harm’s way. Don’t worry—the Greenpeace of today won’t ask you to go to blows with bombs.
“Our organization focuses mostly on the environment and justice—we want to ensure a green and peaceful world for everybody,” said Greenpeace media officer Jason Schwartz.
Though Greenpeace today is still known for its over-the-top efforts to draw attention to various causes—such as the “RESIST” banner behind the White House in the midst of President Donald Trump’s inauguration—there are opportunities for everybody. At its core, Greenpeace’s mission is to lead organizing efforts and peaceful protests to garner attention for various global environmental issues.
These efforts take shape in Chicago in the form of weekly meetings, canvassing campaigns, staffing informational tables at community events and attending various marches across the country. Volunteers are also encouraged to organize phone banks to contact elected representatives or even coordinate trips to visit representatives at their offices.
“(Our volunteers) have the opportunity to organize their own political action and create their own campaigns,” Schwartz said. “We let our volunteers do their own work and create their own actions, and we do our best to empower them.”
This summer, Greenpeace is organizing a “Summer of Resistance” campaign, providing educational materials and training to help volunteers understand their rights, practice de-escalating conflict in tense situations and learning about creating peaceful campaigns for environmental protections and green solutions. If you’re not feeling all that radical, don’t fret. Chicago is also home to a Frontline chapter—hence, the volunteers lining Michigan Avenue. These volunteers are the face of Greenpeace and work to engage the public and inspire others to join the organization.
“We have a core staff, but our large network of volunteers are critical to our work,” Schwartz said. “We recognize that we’re not going to transform these issues and the political context in this country through just our small staff.”
For more information on how to get involved, visit greenpeace.org.
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