Annie Leonard of Greenpeace's Message on Climate Change - Rolling Stone
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Annie Leonard of Greenpeace’s Message on Climate Change

“People tell us, ‘Oh, that’s idealistic, you’re asking for unicorns.’ If you’ve seen solutions in action, you know that is not true. So it helps to make our commitment unshakeable.”

In honor of Rolling Stone’s Climate Crisis Issue, we asked artists to contribute messages about what they, their governments, and everyday people can do to stand up to the threat of climate change. From England to Jamaica to the United States, we are hearing from artists and activists around the world about what we can do locally, globally, and everything in between.

If there’s one environmental-advocacy organization that needs no introduction, it’s Greenpeace. The NGO has been around for much longer than “climate change” has been a commonplace phrase, lobbying heads of states and congresses around the world, and protesting for environmental causes on the open seas, since 1971. Its actions have received the scorn of the fossil-fuel industry, the nuclear industry, the whaling industry, many other industries, and those industries’ state allies. (The French government even admitted that its external intelligence agency, the General Directorate for External Security, used explosives to sink the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in the Port of Aukland in 1985.)

Annie Leonard is the executive director of Greenpeace USA (the organization has 55 offices worldwide). Climate change is a major focus of her advocacy. “What am I personally doing about climate change? A lot of things, I’ll tell you. On an individual level, and also on a broader society-wide level, because that’s where we really see the impacts,” says Leonard.

“One of the things I’m doing is really investing in community,” says Leonard. She explains by fostering a strong sense of community with your immediate neighbors, you can better fight climate change. They share things to reduce their carbon footprints, for example, by borrowing ingredients from neighbors when baking a cake, instead of driving to the store for the one egg needed. Having a strong community “also helps build support and meaning and the resilience and security that we’re going to need to get through the climate crisis together, just like we’re seeing strong communities right now helping people get through the COVID crisis.”

Leonard also argues it’s important to focus on solutions, not just problems, to maintain a positive and achievable outlook on climate change. She explains, “People tell us, ‘Oh, that’s idealistic, you’re asking for unicorns.’ If you’ve seen solutions in action, you know that is not true. So it helps to make our commitment unshakeable.”

On a personal level, Leonard likes to grow her own vegetables, ride a bicycle, and rarely use disposable plastics, but maintains that “those aren’t going to scale at the level we need to drive broad, broad change.… Those are a great place to start, but a terrible place to stop.”

So where do we stop? “The single most important thing that we all have to do is stop burning fossil-fuels,” including oil, coal, and gas, which Leonard points to as the leading culprit for climate change. She also advocates for diverting public subsidies away from these industries, and to renewable energy (while taking care of communities and workers with a “just transition”). When it comes to fossil fuels: “No new permits, no new ports, no new pipelines.”

Leonard says the most important thing for individuals is to take action: “Find an organization or campaign that feels like a good fit for you. There’s so many to choose from. And contact them and ask how you can help. If you want to join Greenpeace, we’d love to have you involved.”


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