Volunteer Reflections from “I Heart Arctic”
This past April to mark Earth Day, Greenpeace mobilized thousands of people around the world for a global day of action for the Arctic. As a Greenpeace volunteer in Vancouver I’ve participated in many volunteer activities, but I want to share how this one stood out for me.
The “I Heart Arctic” action was a day dedicated to expressing our global love for the Arctic, its people and its biodiversity. This expression of love was to demonstrate that the Arctic should be valued and cared for by the global community, and protected from the impacts of climate change and other dangerous threats, like industrial fishing and oil drilling. It was also a day to send a very clear message to the Arctic Council, that the world is watching them closely as they make decisions that will impact the Arctic and the planet for years to come.
For the united action over ten thousand individuals expressed their love for the Arctic by participating in a mass photo and outreaching in their home towns. Ten thousand people like you and me worked together to make a statement to their communities that the Arctic is worth fighting for. Adding all that love and organizing up, it equaled a strong and unified voice echoing around the world. From the local came a global message.
For me in Vancouver, it meant spending time in my local community in and around Commercial Drive, close to Greenpeace’s B.C. office. It meant reaching out and creating awareness and connection between my community and the Arctic. Jessie Shwarz (the former Greenpeace Vancouver Volunteer Organizer) and I grinned while painting the faces of children, gearing up for the Vancouver Earth Day parade. As a crew of volunteers and friends, we laughed, smiled, clapped, and sang our way down our city’s streets. I wore a polar bear costume, shaking hands with passers-by and letting them take photos with me, as a way for them to show their personal support for our campaign to Save the Arctic. As young children approached me, I watched them gaze up at me as with a mix of excitement, awe and maybe even fear. It reminded me of the mixes of emotions I feel as I ponder the future of the planet.
For a twenty-something environmentalist like me, the future often looks bleak. When you learn about the destruction of our planet, its effects on human health, and the dangers of public apathy there is little that helps overcome the feelings of fear. Fear for our health, fear for the natural world, fear for the collective of life on earth. This fear can be disabling.
But this past Earth Day, as I listened to environmentalists from our community speak about the reasons why they will forever work to protect our beautiful planet and all its people – that fear went away. Listening to these speeches and songs, I realized why this event was so important to me. It represented the human ability to band together, create community, share values and support. It also represented our ability to be honest with where we are, step beyond our destructive cycles of consumption, and start organizing a better future together. It brought me a lot of hope.
“I Heart Arctic” was really an event to inspire hope and love. Love and the desire to protect those and what you love is stronger than any fear or hatred. We cannot simply hide from the truth that the Arctic is in danger, it is melting. Not only is this landscape being changed by our greenhouse gases, but it is at risk of further destruction from exploitive companies that refuse to acknowledge the risks of their business or the realities of the climate change they’ve created.
What this experience reminded me about is the strength of community. The next time that you are afraid, remember to look out your window into the eyes of your neighbors. Our communities exist to support each other and face our fears with love and honesty. Express what you are passionate about, and express your values. And come to Greenpeace! You will find community support and the strength to make change. The Arctic Council may not listen to a single voice half a world away, but they will have to listen to ten thousand voices in unison.
I truly do love the Arctic, and I love Greenpeace. Greenpeace is one of the only organizations in the world brave enough to face fear with an expression of love on a global scale. I know that we will continue to work towards a better future for our families and our communities. We will not allow the polar bear to become a legend. That’s why I continue to “love the Arctic” and work on Greenpeace campaigns that try to protect the earth and all its diversity. Our reality is sometimes terrifying, but I know we will make it through. We have more than ten thousand hearts on our side.
Mary Lovell is a volunteer and canvasser with Greenpeace in Vancouver, and facilitates the Greenpeace volunteer Local Group at Simon Fraser University.
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