Pat Smith 1

I’m sixty five years old. I don’t exactly fit the stereotype you might have of a Greenpeace volunteer. My whole life I’ve been outspoken and railed against injustice, but always from behind the scenes.

It’s been more usual and comfortable for me to support causes financially, rather than stand up for them physically. Supporting justice-seeking organizations financially is very important.

But recently, I’ve found myself in a very odd time of my life. Everywhere I turn, I see things moving backward instead of forward. Everything I thought would happen for planetary betterment is crashing into planetary ruin. I’ve decided that my position on the sidelines is no longer tenable.

So, I decided to take it upon myself to act, to do simple but effective actions and do my part to slow catastrophic climate change — a problem that threatens life as we know it for my children and grandchildren, and millions of people around the world.

My kids think my activism is just another one of my fads (like when I jumped on the low-fat foods bandwagon.) I wish that were true. This is not a fad. I really feel that I have stood idly by while my generation has embraced consumerism.

The crazy economic system of capitalism is trashing the planet and using up all of the Earth’s resources for ourselves and for profit. This same system has externalized all of the environmental and social costs, leaving the environment uninhabitable for many people around the world, and no doubt for future generations.

Pat Smith 2

Greenpeace has consistently been one of the few bright beacons of hope through this time. From where I stand, human-made climate change is our greatest threat. I helped create this mess. I want to help fix it. This is why I will volunteer with Greenpeace whenever I’m asked from now on.

At first, when Greenpeace asked for people to volunteer for an action against Toronto Dominion (TD) bank, I was conflicted; I come from a banking family. My brother just retired from a really good job with TD. My nephew works there still. I wished there were a different bank being targeted, but I wish a lot of things. I truly feel that now there are no more excuses. 

I decided to do it. My husband suggested I get some friends to help, but most of my friends believe we don’t need drastic actions against fossil fuel expansion yet. I disagree. My husband, who is an even bigger Greenpeace supporter than me said he’d come with me for my protest.

So, I made a big two-sided poster and requested more materials from Greenpeace headquarters. We went downtown to the TD branch in Barrie, Ontario, with our signs, posters and flyers to share. We tried to talk with a manager but were politely shunned and ended up giving our letter of protest to another TD staff member who said she’d “pass it on”.

Then we stood outside the bank with our signs. Many people averted their eyes, but many were willing to be engaged in conversation. We talked about how we can’t continue business as usual when it comes to climate change and the need to stop financing tar sands pipelines. Many people took our flyers and it felt empowering to start important conversations with people I’ve never met before.

The negative reactions were disappointing, but I will not be discouraged. I have hope that change is possible.

Pat Smith 1

I still have my sign. It’s in the garage. I intend to go back to the downtown bank to make sure they remember the problem still exists. I keep the stickers targeting TD in the pocket of my coat and I have applied them to TD bank machines all around Ontario: at Union Station and the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto, and in Ottawa and Cobourg. 

If I ever pass a TD ATM unattended in a different town, it will receive a sticker advising the user to “wash their hands after use” because TD funds dirty oil. I get a secret thrill at these first acts of defiance. Sixty-five years old and this is the sum total of my law breaking so far. But I am not finished. Not by a long shot.

As governments and companies commit environmental crimes around the world, these are simple yet tangible acts of courage I can take to turn the tides. Added up, I believe together we can change the world. This is why I volunteer for Greenpeace.

 Will you join me?

To get involved and help pressure TD to stop funding dirty, dangerous tar sands pipelines, and to receive materials and support for your actions, you can use this Greenpeace toolkit for action.

And make sure to sign the petition asking TD to choose water, not pipelines.

 

Sticker TD